The Role Of Drones In The Oil And Gas Industry
A drone is an unmanned flying machine that can be remotely controlled (usually through satellite
communication). A drone can fly either autonomously by using pre-programmed GPS coordinates, or it
can be piloted remotely. The term “drone” may refer to both the vehicle itself and any aircraft remotely
controlled from the ground. Drones are often used in military operations, for example, to identify
terrorist camps or other “soft” targets that would otherwise be difficult to reach with just boots on the
Drones are also used for commercial purposes, such as aerial photography. While the size of the drone
market is growing rapidly, it has several limitations due to regulatory problems and high costs. Some
drones are difficult or impossible to fly manually because they rely on an automated system that
stabilizes flight and navigates from point A to point B without any pilot input. On the other hand, many
commercial drones have a pilot that controls the drone remotely with a joystick and an array of buttons.
In this way, pilots can fly their drones as if they were inside of it! The United States and China are the
two largest drone producers. However, the United States dominates the field when it comes to military
drones. China, on the other hand, dominates the market for drones used in commercial applications.
Drone technology is today being used in a variety of industries, from agriculture to filmmaking. And in
the oil and gas industry, drones are most often used for aerial photo and video documentation,
inspection and maintenance of hard-to-reach facilities such as pipelines, rigs, offshore platforms etc.,
security surveillance/patrols etc.
In general, drones are used by oil and gas companies as a safer, cheaper, and more efficient way to
monitor their facilities. For example, the use of drones for aerial inspection saves gas companies time
and money that would otherwise be spent on helicopters or ground vehicles. In addition, drones can
capture images from angles that would be difficult or impossible to see with manned vehicles, making
oil and gas companies more aware of the state of their equipment.
Read more as we’re going to discuss the role of drones in the oil and gas industry in today’s article.
How Oil And Gas Drones Are Utilized To Make The Day-To-Day Operations More Efficient
The role of drones in the oil and gas industry is to conduct inspections, carry out measurements, and
monitor processes. These tools are used in order to find inefficiencies that may arise due to equipment
damage or operator error.
Drone flies can capture real-time video footage which is then recorded for future analysis. A change in
topography over time can be documented, as well as zones that require further inspection.
Likewise, drones are capable of navigating through confined spaces to identify cracks or other damage
that would normally be difficult to see with the naked eye. They also collect chemical data about gases
emitted from equipment, pipes, and storage tanks. This chemical data can be compared to existing
pollution reports, as well as conditions on site.
This allows oil and gas companies to identify when the severity of damage has increased, and to take
steps toward preventing a potential disaster.
Additionally, drones are also able to conduct aerial inspections of storage tanks, pipelines, and oil wells.
This can help companies identify whether or not these facilities require more frequent inspection in the
Due to the insight that drones and UAVs can provide via real-time data, images, and analysis about their
environment, oil and gas operations may become more efficient and safer in the years to come.
Moreover, drones used in the oil and gas industry offers many benefits. For example, drones can be
used as a tool to monitor activity onsite as well as provide real-time data about the environment.
The oil and gas industry is expected to continue growing as it becomes more affordable and accessible.
As of now, drone activity in oil and gas operations is limited to areas where operators can monitor
drones for safety reasons (i.e., less hazardous conditions). If and when regulations change, drones may
be used in all types of conditions.
Furthermore, the drone application trend in this sector is also expected to grow through acquisitions
and strategic partnerships with other companies. For example, Schlumberger purchased a drone
company called Geoframe in 2016 and announced that it would begin using drones for its own
operations by the end of 2017. More recently, BP signed a 5- year agreement to use drones from Near
Earth Autonomy during its North Sea drilling operations.
Major Companies In The Oil And Gas Industry That Are Adapting The Drone Application Trend
There are currently several oil and gas companies that use drones within their operations. The main
reason these companies use drones is because it allows them to monitor the activity on site and also
provide real-time data about the environment. Many of these large companies are also beginning to use
drones for surveillance purposes in order to monitor activity and safety conditions. Some examples of oil
and gas companies using drones in their operations are listed in this section.
To be specific, there are several major oil and gas companies that use drones in their operations. These
companies include: BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Hess Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell and
Statoil. They use drones for inspection and preventive maintenance as well as to improve operational
A good example is when Shell needed to inspect the top of a riser tower located in the Gulf Of Mexico. A
regular inspection would require an offshore worker to use a 50-foot (15 m) ladder and walk out over
the water near the top of the platform. This is dangerous and time-consuming which is why they prefer
using a drone with a camera to take pictures from the top of the platform.
In September 2017, BP deployed four miniature Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for its operated
drilling rigs in the Gulf Of Mexico. The drones are equipped with an infrared scanner and can scan up to
2,000 barrels per day compared to just 100 barrels using the traditional manual inspection. As of
September 2017, there are 12 rigs that have these drones inspecting their facilities in real-time with
plans to expand this program across BP’s operated rig fleet.
Cameron International Corporation uses drones for inspections of offshore installations and lube oil
tanks at onshore facilities. They are also used to check for oil and gas leaks underneath the seabed.
Recently, they carried out a three-day trial of an unmanned helicopter to inspect flare tips for emissions
at one of their production platforms.
Likewise, Baker Hughes uses drones on land and underwater to measure well pressure, gauge thickness
of walls and monitor fluid levels. The data is uploaded into a central database to raise alerts about
potential issues. Their team has identified over 60,000 risks using the drones and they plan on
expanding their use of drones for oil and gas inspections in 2018.
Halliburton deploys a drone with a high-resolution camera attached onto its drill pipe as it goes down
the well so that engineers can assess any potential damage to the wellbore. This is very useful as it
reduces the time and manpower needed to survey potential risks that may require expensive
interventions before drilling continues. The drones also help engineers to build more accurate models of
the subsurface which improves their simulations for directional drilling, boosts production rates and
Another company using drones in their oil and gas operations is Weatherford. They use drones to gather
data for 3D modeling in their reservoir evaluation, well design and planning phases of the project. These
drones can help them to reduce costs by reducing time spent collecting data on the ground which
increases the production rates due to faster access to more well sites.
While most of the companies mentioned above use drones for oil and gas operations on land, some also
deploy their drones in harsh environments. Besides the Gulf of Mexico, these include Brazil’s pre-salt
basins where BP uses its Scan Eagle X200 to monitor production activities at its subsea wellheads.
The Future Of Drone Technology In The Oil And Gas Industry
The future of the oil and gas industry with regards to drones is quite promising. AI will introduce a new
layer in the production process that will be enabled by the use of drones. This will provide a real-time
view of the data collected from multiple sources. Drones are also advantageous when it comes to
inspecting facilities located in remote places where other methods are not cost-effective or safe.
As mentioned previously, companies are using drones for inspection purposes on land, underwater, in
harsh environments and even offshore applications such as monitoring flare tips for emissions on oil
rigs. These devices have been very useful as they detect potential risks before drilling continues which
reduces risk and prevents expensive interventions later as well as speeds up operations by reducing time
spent on ground measurements.
Generally, oil and gas companies rely on accurate information in order to make decisions efficiently and
cost-effectively which is why using drones can help them to reduce costs.
In order for everyone in the oil and gas industry to benefit from drones, manufacturers need to improve
their devices so that they can fly longer and provide better images with higher resolution. This will
reduce the time and cost spent by companies using drones for oil and gas purposes and increase safety
as well since only certified, professional pilots will be allowed to fly unmanned aircrafts over populated
All in all, the increased use of AI-enabled sensors such as drones will also help producers gain better
insights into their operations which can make them more competitive since they would be able to make
better decisions. As a result, we could see more oil and gas companies embracing the usage of drones as
well as other technologies involved in Industry 4.0 which is a smart factory where everything from
materials to information can flow freely across production lines thus improving efficiency and adding
value to the final product.
Check out Airborne Drones today if you want to learn more about oil and gas drones.
The Role Of Drones In The Oil And Gas Industry