One of the early use cases for drones was the inspection of linear structure. As seen in a previous post, this includes Electric infrastructures inspection, but it also applies to the gas and petrol industry. Indeed, these industries have thousands of kilometers of pipelines to look after. This is generally done with foot patrols, aerial surveys or satellite observations. However the drones offer a cheap solution to replace or complement the above inspection means.
In order to provide an overview of the different obstacles and solutions existing in this particular application, C. Gomez and D.R. Green publish a comprehensive survey untitled : « Small unmanned airborne systems to support oil and gas pipeline monitoring and mapping » (freely available here). In this paper, the authors first review existing approaches to monitor hydrocarbon leaks. These are accompanied by a list of the most used sensors along with their benefits, weaknesses and typical usages. Then, the authors proceed to describe the drones architecture and the auxiliary systems that they may carry to help them in their missions. After this technical part, examples of existing applications of drones for oil and gas pipeline monitoring are presented and a list of factors to consider, when designing a drone system for a given mission, is proposed.
Finally, three scenario for drone usage are envisioned :
Each scenario is discussed and a solution based on current technologies is proposed.
The paper concludes on the benefits that ever more efficient and ever cheaper drones/sensors can bring to the hydrocarbon industry to help with the inspection, monitoring, mapping and security. For anyone interested in the topic, this is a « must read ».