Drone Gathering Data Does Man-Week in Hour
An unmanned data collection flight of 100 km along a gas pipeline route in Mexico has done in just over an hour what it would take a human at least a week to complete, according to Canadian operator SkyX.
The robotic flight in Mexico was programmed and monitored remotely from the company’s Greater Toronto Area SkyCenter mission control, with a support crew of engineers on the ground in Mexico, it said. "Using high-resolution imagery, the longest of multiple flights identified more than 200 potentially significant anomalies along the remote pipeline, ranging from unauthorised buildings and cultivation, through to a fissure possibly caused by seismic activity." These were pinpointed precisely for investigation and remediation.
“This mission was groundbreaking,” said SkyX founder and CEO Didi Horn. “We have proven our solution in a rugged environment which presented network communications challenges. Our Mexican partner was stunned not only by our results, but by the speed and accuracy with which we delivered them.”
“More than $38bn is spent annually monitoring oil and gas pipelines using less efficient means, which often identify problems only long after they’ve occurred. SkyX brings an unprecedented value proposition to this global issue,” says Horn.
The SkyX System consists of an aircraft (see photo above, courtesy of SkyX) that takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane, the SkyCenter control room (which allows for real-time and secure mission monitoring from remote locations), and the company’s proprietary SkyBoxes, which allow SkyOne to recharge and continue long-range missions without having to return to home.
The announcement comes as SkyX finalises a second round of financing, with a quarter of its target reached. It did not provide details on the cost of the operation.
Drones are not the only experimental vehicle proposed in the field of pipeline inspection.
'Airlander', a new form of highly-steerable helium-filled airship that has been commercially developed in the UK by Hybrid Air Vehicles on the back of US defence technology, could also carry far heavier inspection equipment than a drone and fly the route of a pipeline relatively slowly and stably. One such Airlander though was damaged during an extensive test flying schedule on November 18; there were no injuries; the prototype has yet to go into commercial production.