The advent of information technology and various technical solutions has generated considerable popularity for unmanned systems. Drones, in particular, are the topic of much interest due to their ability to operate with minimal assistance from humans and flight capabilities. The oil and gas industry, which tends to work off of the land and have to analyze large areas and rely on flying vehicles to do so, is a subject of interest. Drones can resolve many of these issues and reduce the costs of operation for many companies in the field. Companies and researchers alike are beginning to apply the results of their research, but so far, there are few published results. As such, this project will evaluate the potential benefits of the current uses of unmanned aerial vehicles in the oil and gas industry and propose new ones.
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Many companies in the industry have already recognized the usefulness of drones in identifying pipeline leaks, an expensive but critically necessary process that is typically performed by specialized teams with much equipment. Tannant, Zheng, Smith, and Cahill (2018) note that the technology is not suited for widespread usage yet due to physical limitations, but it has significant potential for the future. The traditional measurement method is both costly and potentially harmful to the people who conduct the testing, and so, finding a safe replacement would be preferable. The potential for reduced costs due to lower personnel requirements and less expensive equipment provides considerable additional incentives for companies to invest in drones for the purpose. However, it is necessary to develop lightweight measurement tools that do not require a high-powered drone to carry them before the approach becomes viable.
Drones may be used for inspections of objects near to the controller as well as at a distance in the sea. Frederiksen, Mouridsen, and Knudsen (2019) highlight their benefits as tools for infrastructure inspection. The approach has not been documented in its specific application to the oil and gas industry, but it should not be difficult to evaluate the benefits of being able to analyze objects such as oil rigs in detail to note any signs of damage or decay. Many oil and gas industry objects are located at sea, and so, it can be challenging to evaluate their condition due to the need to use aircraft to access some locations from the outside. Drones will significantly reduce the costs of such endeavors without compromising the quality of the inspection.
Unmanned vehicles may be used for the improvement of overall safety in the industry, but they also have applications in emergency and disaster management. Arain and Moeini (2016) claim that drones provide a low-cost method of providing accurate and timely information from areas affected by catastrophic situations while the response teams are formulating a strategy and moving in. The use of drones would reduce search times and enable responders to arrive knowing their objectives and ready to complete them at a low cost. As a result, it would be possible to minimize damage and save more lives if any are in danger. As with infrastructure inspections, there is little to no scholarly information on the usage of drones for the purpose in the industry, possibly because the rarity of such events hinders innovations in the field.
There are some obstacles to the usage of drones in the oil and gas field, as well as in most other areas. As Baghirov (2018) notes, anyone may buy a drone, as the market is continuously growing and developing models accessible to buyers with any income level, but their real value is in software. Before drones can reach their full potential in oil and gas applications, it will be necessary to create a suite of programs that address the industry’s various needs. With that said, many of the needed functionalities have been implemented already for other purposes, and so, it is possible to save labor by taking them and adapting them to the situation. Nevertheless, until this necessary labor is complete, drones will remain somewhat inefficient, and companies will have to be persuaded to invest in suboptimal approaches for future benefits.
The final, though possibly most important, the issue concerns international legislation on drone flights, especially any potential conflicts between different nations’ laws. Sow (2018) identifies four possible approaches to the point: following the local law, enabling flights beyond-line-of-sight, creating protected air zones, and creating drone rules based on those of other nations. All of these approaches have some issues, but overall, the fourth option is preferable. The first is expensive and wastes time, defeating the purpose, the second creates a risk of violating the law, and the third makes the possibility of confidential information leaks. However, the fourth option still has issues because drone legislation is restrictive in most of the world’s countries due to its novelty. As such, companies that want to implement the technology should try to convince governments worldwide to change the law to accommodate modern needs.
Arain, F., & Moeini, S. (2016). Leveraging on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for effective emergency response and disaster management. Web.
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Baghirov, J. (2018). The use of drones in oil and gas logistics. Web.
Frederiksen, M. H., Mouridsen, O. A. V., & Knudsen, M. P. (2019). Drones for inspection of infrastructure: Barriers, opportunities, and successful uses. Web.
Sow, P. (2018). The use of drones in the oil and gas industry: A 4.0 contract. PM World Journal, 7(12). Web.
Tannant, D., Smith, K., Cahill, A., Hawthorne, I., Ford, O., Black, A., & Beckie, R. (2018). Evaluation of a drone and laser-based methane sensor for detection of fugitive methane emissions. Web.