Around the world, asset-intensive industries, such as oil and gas, are looking to maximize their return on assets by better managing and maintaining their assets throughout the lifecycle. Regular maintenance and inspections work is crucial for proper asset management. Few weeks ago, we discussed remote monitoring and how it is helping industries improve their asset management initiatives. Today, we are going to talk about another latest technology that has garnered significant attention in recent times, drones. Drones are among the latest technologies used in the oil and gas and other process industries for inspection and maintenance tasks.
Drone-assisted inspection is the latest trend in the asset integrity management space. Drones have the potential to completely transform some of the inspection operations in the highly regulated, asset-intensive industries. In the US, thanks to the 2017 Unmanned Aircraft Systems Reform Act, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are now approved by law for inspections and other applications in industries such as oil & gas and refining.
Drones Help Simplify Inspections
In the oil & gas industry, unmanned aircraft systems (drones) can quickly and cost-effectively perform visual inspection for a variety of assets located in hard-to-reach areas such as towers, risers, pipelines, storage tanks, jackets etc., in the onshore and offshore environment. Using drones, end users can significantly reduce the time spent on visual inspections. In many situations, inspectors do not even need to travel to the site and can simply view live or recorded video taken by the drone. This enables them to inspect many more sites more effectively. Furthermore, inspection videos can be saved easily for later reference and shared with other experts anywhere in the world, if needed.
Drones Enhance Safety for All
Drone inspections also help to enhance safety for workers and inspectors. Inspectors do not need to climb ladders, use ropes, or be in sky-lifts to get to hard-to-reach inspection sites. Using drones, inspectors can distance themselves from the danger zones, making it possibly to safely inspect assets in high-risk areas. For example, when an active flare needs to be inspected, a drone can collect all the needed videos and images. The drone can also be equipped with thermal imaging camera to get the necessary thermographic data, while inspectors remain at a safe distance. Furthermore, with drone-assisted inspections there is no need to shut down or disturb the production process.
Today, a variety of technology solutions, such as drones, are available that could help owner-operators improve their inspection operations and reduce corrective maintenance costs. While drones cannot replace hands-on inspection work by humans yet, these can significantly enhance the efficiency and productivity of humans performing inspections.