Drones in the resources industry

February 15, 2016 |

It is a truism that the resources sector is an early adopter of technology, particularly that of the labour saving variety.  Automated delivery systems, wheeled or on the sea is fairly standard.  In Drones make strides in oil and gas infrastructure inspection and repair FierceMobileIT highlights the impact of drones in this industry providing:

Drones keep strutting their stuff when it comes to commercial applications, with more news this week about drones helping maintain and repair oil and gas industry infrastructure.

Not only has Sky-Futures raised a hefty sum in a second funding round, but a drone research team took first place in the Drones for Good Award for its drone prototype that can detect and fix leaks in pipelines.

Sky-Futures, which uses drones to capture and analyze data about oil rigs and gas pipelines, raised $5.7 million this week.

This amount gets added to the initial $3.8 million in Series A funding that it raised last May.

Bristow Group, a helicopter service company in the energy industry, invested $4.2 million, according to a Sky-Futures press release. The other $1.5 million came from existing investor MMC Ventures, according to TechCrunch.

Sky-Futures offers a safer, cost-effective way of inspecting oil rigs to stop problems before they happen. Drones inspect live flare stacks, splash zones, decommissioning, general topside work and under deck, using HD video and still and thermal imagery.

Sky-Futures is currently working in the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, Middle East, South East Asia and North Africa with more 36 oil and gas companies.

But the pipeline work for drones doesn’t stop at detection. According to an Imperial College of London press release, a drone prototype has been developed that can detect and fix pipeline leaks itself. The project, dubbed Buildrone and part of Imperial’s Aerial Robotics Lab, took first place at the United Arab Emirates’ Drones for Good Award competition.

The drone prototype can detect a gas, oil or chemical leak in a pipeline and then “print” materials that can seal the leak. “Compared to current methods where humans have to maintain pipelines, our approach offers major time and cost savings while simultaneously reducing risks to engineers when doing inspection and repair tasks,” said Talib Alhinai, a doctoral student in Imperial’s Department of Aeronautics, who led the Buildrone team

The Privacy Act would probably apply to drones used by resource companies to the extent that they collected personal information.  That may be a rare occurrence for drones inspecting oil rigs and pipelines but capturing the image of a worker would be personal information.

The problems with drones and privacy continue with little in the way of government action at a State or Federal level.  This has raised the ire of the Gold Coast Bulletin with Civil libertarian says State Government has ‘failed miserably’ to address privacy issues posed by drones which provides:

BAD luck if you become a “peeping tom” victim of a flying drone.

The Acting Australian Information Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has joined the Civil Aviation Authority in warning Gold Coasters that the Privacy Act in its current form “does not cover” the actions of individuals using drones.

The increasing popularity of drones with private users in Australia has led to growing concerns around the regulation and enforcement of privacy.

Last month, a Main Beach woman was distressed after a drone appeared to be trying to capture images of her topless in her unit on the 11th floor.

While manufacturers in the United States have established NoFlyZones, which allows the public to set up and register restricted airspace above their homes, no such program is in place in Australia.

Mr Piglrim said: “The Privacy Act does not cover the actions of individuals in their private capacity, including any use of drones by individuals.

Meanwhile in the UK the Express & Star report the none too surprising line in Privacy fears as cheap drone sales soar which provides:

They are used for military intelligence gathering, professional photography and are even being trialled as a revolutionary delivery system by firms such as Amazon.

But now drones can be picked up for less than £50 posing the question: do people know how they should be using them?

Sales of UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles – have exploded in the last two years.

Maplin, one of the biggest drone retailers in the country, sold more than 20,000 in 2015, double the amount they shifted in the previous 12 months.

While their priciest model at £2,900 is perhaps too lofty for most, the electronics specialist’s top seller is a much more affordable RC EYE One S Quadcopter Drone which you can buy on its website for £59.99.

Whereas Amazon provide a whole range for less then £50, with some less than £20.

But the fact thousands of people are now taking to the skies with their new gadgets, some with cameras mounted, has inevitably resulted in problems.

Staffordshire Police has seen a sharp rise in drone-related calls over Christmas.

The force confirmed calls shot up from eight incidents in November to 20 in December while there were eight further incidents in the first two weeks of January alone.

Although they stated not all calls were in relation to complaints about them being flown incorrectly and some incidents included thefts and even vehicle damage.

One man that has reported concerns to police is Burntwood resident Alan Crane who said he has had persistent problems this month with one such drone buzzing at a height lower than the top of his house.

The 64-year-old of Springhill Road, said: “It has been flying over the property, the gardens, flying over the road, flying over the lawn.

“It is the absolute indignant intrusion of privacy that annoys me.

“For what purpose is someone flying over your property and what are they taking photographs of?”

The Civil Aviation Authority’s ‘Dronecode’ advises that operators should be able to see the machines at all times and they should not be flown above 400 ft. While UAVs with cameras fitted should not be flown within 50 metres of people, vehicles or buildings and structures, or over congested areas and gatherings such as concerts and sports events.

Staffordshire Police spokeswoman Faye Casey reassured that residents who had privacy fears that officers are well aware of the guidelines around using drones in order to provide advice to people using them illegally.

The force has its own drone which it uses for Royal Visits,  wildlife operations, firearms training and helping locate vulnerable missing people.

One Response to “Drones in the resources industry”

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