December 06, 2016


The quintessential energy industry such as oil, gas, wind and solar power sectors need constant inspection at all times to maintain the high levels of performance. They are spread over a large area that is a tiring task for ground forces to move in and get the job done. Safety is also a major factor here when humans are working close to sources of high energy emitting objects. With the introduction of aerial drones into the market, things have seemingly taken a radical approach to regular inspections. What was once thought as a labor intensive task that was not economical either is now made possible via the use of versatile drones.

The areas that require regular inspections are often spread across vast areas of land that are seemingly impossible by ground approach. They are quite elaborative in nature and require the use of expensive gear to climb and inspect for any damages. This is also not a safe option since humans are just inches away from imminent danger at all times. Putting lives at risk is never the priority for any industry. Drones on the other hand are more versatile in their levels of operation. The smaller size factor and the availability to choose from a variety of drone models can only make things easier for the engineers as per their requirements. Drones are easier to use and can cover vast areas of inspection in a few minutes rather than hours when done by humans and expensive machinery. Aerial drones are highly maneuverable in the skies and approaching heavy grid lines is never an issue when it is unmanned. Most drones available in the market today are constructed using durable and lightweight materials that can withstand some of the demanding work environments with ease. Stable flight is possible with their aerodynamic construction and precise flight inputs can be given with the use of a dedicated controller. They are fitted with powerful cameras that can capture a highly detailed view of the world below. Though they soar above amidst strong winds, they can record stable video footage since they are assisted with the use of 3-axis gimbal systems. The pilot below can view a live relay of aerial video from the drone through a smartphone/tablet or an external display. The instant coverage of the overall area reduces the work time significantly and leads to higher levels of efficiency in operation.

Time management is crucial in any field of work. Especially in the energy field, it is best to cover large areas of land with less amount of time. Drones can travel over long areas of operational land and gather relevant data on a more accurate scale. This enables the functioning efficiency of the entire plant that it is used for. For example, the wind energy sector uses a large amount of blades that are constantly bombarded with environmental stress. These blades require a lot of inspection on a timely basis for utmost reliability at all times. Drones can easily move in closer and get a drone’s eye view of the situation and provide instant video feedback to the operator below. This allows engineers to act quickly on the maintenance and get it back to function much faster. Solar energy sector operates on a vast acre of land and the field of work for inspectors are quite risky when they are dealing with solar panels that are quite hot. Aerial drones can effortlessly soar above these panels and can easily gather the required information which pinpoints the source of the problem on which the engineers can act upon. This saves a lot of time and also speed up that process in half the cost of deploying humans and other expensive tools. Oil and gas energy sector relies upon infrastructural inspection on a timely basis to maintain its bases and meet the strict standards set by the government. Drones have already been playing a vital role in this sector since it can collect aerial footage which can further be used to create a geo-referenced orthomosaic of the entire gas plant site. High resolution maps and beneficial timelines can easily be created in just a few hours which helps to keep the main plant operations running on a regular basis. Furthermore due to the form factor of drones they can easily be flown over to monitor installations, track the available resources and co-ordinate the various work activities of the work site.

The regulations that govern the use of drones around the country will eventually play a vital role in the advancement and the effective deployment of drones in various industrial sectors. Automation of drones will be the next step in its use in the energy sector, so that it can fly on set intervals and recharge itself on make-shift charging pads. The flight paths can easily be recorded onto its memory using the waypoints and geo-referenced co-ordinates. Experts are keenly observing the potential that these drones are able to offer their line of work and it will not take too long before we could see automated drones flying across the skies and getting the job done right.

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