SolSpec 2019 in Review

SolSpec 2019 in Review


February 20

Engineering Team Moves Downtown to Novel

Engineering Team Moves Downtown to Novel

We started outgrowing the garage in Golden! The engineering team is the first group to move to the temporary offices at Novel Coworking downtown Denver, and the others will follow later in the year. 

March 20

Rest of SolSpec Team Moves Downtown

Rest of SolSpec Team Moves Downtown

The engineering team got settled in just in time for the rest of the SolSpec team to join them at the Novel offices downtown Denver! 

May 8

SolSpec Proud to Support Ropin’ Rascals

SolSpec Proud to Support Ropin’ Rascals

The team at SolSpec was proud to partner with the Huwa Enterprises companies and others to support the 2019 Ropin’ Rascals event! Ropin’ Rascals is an annual one-day sponsored children’s charity event that takes place at the Huwa family cattle ranch in Northeast Colorado. Special needs children get to become cowboys and cowgirls for a day and develop skills and memories to last a lifetime.


Learn more about Ropin’ Rascals, including information on how to volunteer or join the event.

May 19

Toby Kraft Speaks at Summit for Reclamation and Construction

Toby Kraft Speaks at Summit for Reclamation and Construction

Toby Kraft spoke about “Playing Offense and Being Industry Advocates” with Duraroot’s Aaron DeJoia at the Summit for Reclamation and Construction. The annual Summit, hosted by Huwa Enterprises in Keenesburg, Colorado, is a unique conference where professionals come together to learn, share, and network with industry experts dedicated to protecting the environment.

Attend, sponsor, or exhibit at the 2020 Summit:

June 25

Bryan Crowe on Pipeliners Podcast

Bryan Crowe on Pipeliners Podcast

Bryan Crowe discussed pipeline and right-of-way integrity with EnerSys Corporation CEO Russel Treat on Pipeliners Podcast. Pipeliners Podcast invites pipeline industry leaders to share insight and expertise, and gives listeners the chance to learn about the latest information in the field and hear great conversations. 


“Ground Movement and Pipeline Integrity with Bryan Crowe” was episode 81 for the podcast, and in their discussion Bryan and Russel went in-depth on soil movement, surface hydrology, and the impact of environmental hazards on safe and successful pipeline operations. Listen to the podcast episode to hear the full conversation!


July 15

West Moberly First Nations and SolSpec Canada Announce Joint Venture

West Moberly First Nations and SolSpec Canada Announce Joint Venture

Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nations and Ryan Pelzel of SolSpec Canada (SOC) announced the establishment of the West Moberly SOC Joint Venture.


The West Moberly SOC Joint Venture was founded to pursue pipeline integrity business opportunities. WMFN and SOC share a fundamental dedication to respect, honesty, fairness, and integrity. Open communication is key to these values and our joint success, and just as West Moberly First Nations promotes openness and clarity in the community, SolSpec strives to increase transparency and improve the safety and efficiency of pipeline projects. Together we manifest our values and create real-world impacts for our respected clients and communities.

July 29

SolSpec Moves to Lakewood

SolSpec Moves to Lakewood

Our time at Novel had its ups and downs. Beautiful spaces, an ideal kitchen/coffee/keg situation, and a location that couldn’t be beat for downtown. But after more than a few rounds with debris falling from the ceiling and noxious fumes, and elevators that were either non-functional or that took 10 minutes to get to the bottom floor, prompting walks up nine flights of stairs, it’s fair to say we were ready to move.

A big part of the SolSpec team made the move to Lakewood a success. We were once again in a temporary space, but just down the hall from our future home. Rachel Toupin and Youssef Benchouaf went above and beyond to make the new offices a cozy and productive space.


September 3

InterDrone: Expo Hall in Las Vegas

InterDrone: Expo Hall in Las Vegas

The team had a great presence at InterDrone! Angie Woodmansee and Robert Blank had three days of conversations with people at the SolSpec booth in the expo hall. 


Also Angie was caught alone at the booth by a guy with his own media network asking for the one-minute pitch for SolSpec (Tugba was fixing some technical issues with the ipads that we were too busy to fix, she’s in the background). She’s only sharing this video in the spirit of showing everything we’ve done, and otherwise would make sure it never got more than the 43 views it’s had on YouTube:

September 4

InterDrone: Advancing Pipeline Safety

Toby Kraft and Todd Knapp from Hanging H presented as part of the Energy Inspection Enterprise track, with a talk titled “Advancing Pipeline Safety with Aerial Analytics and UAVs.” The response was extremely positive – people flooded the SolSpec booth after the talk and were motivated to learn more about what we do and what our excellent teams have produced.


See Toby’s InterDrone profile, and learn more about Toby and Todd’s presentation.

September 25

Bryan Crowe Interview Featured in Our Great Minds

bryan crowe our coo

Bryan Crowe’s interview with Our Great Minds was published under the Business/Industry Disrupters section. Here’s a snippet from the introduction: “Bryan is a great example of a young leader from the oil and gas industry that saw the advantages of digital transformation and IT modernization early on. He embraced it head on, and is now helping others like him embrace change, upskill teams and break down barriers to adopting technologies like UAVs, big data and AI to automate workflows for safer and much more efficient pipeline operations. Bryan is of the firm belief that digital transformation and modern technologies such as aerial analytics are enabling oil and gas companies to fully capitalize on the resources we have, be better stewards, and provide clean and dependable energy for the foreseeable future.”


Read the full interview!

October 23

Shale Insights in Pittsburgh

Bryan Crowe spoke at the Technology Showcase at Shale Insights, held in Pittsburgh. With only 5 minutes to cover the material, Bryan presented a detailed but succinct overview of SolSpec’s Right-of-Way Integrity Management (RIM) program.


Kat Kraft and Angie Woodmansee had great conversations with people at the SolSpec booth over the course of two days, and made valuable connections with both attendees and other exhibitors. The event was a great success – both the presentation and the booth presence resulted in new business for SolSpec!


Learn more about the Technology Showcase at Shale Insights:

Random thoughts about Pittsburgh: A much lovelier city than anticipated, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. One odd thing: while shopping for a few items for the booth (Halloween candy draws people in), Kat and Angie had a first encounter with a shopping cart escalator:

October 29

UAV Expo: SolSpec Booth in the Expo Hall

commercial uav attendees

Angie Woodmansee, Katrina Engelsted, Robert Blank, and Youssef Benchouaf had great conversations at the booth from the opening happy hour, which was supposed to be low-key (and we ended up with a very packed booth area and lots of interactions), through the end of the event!
commercial uav solspec attendance
commercial uav solspec attendance

October 29

UAV Expo: Energy Vertical Presentation

UAV Expo: Energy Vertical Presentation

Toby Kraft and Todd Knapp from Hanging H spoke on the Energy Vertical session at Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas. 


Learn more about the session and Commercial UAV Expo.

October 30

UAV Expo: SolSpec Product Preview Presentation

Youssef Benchouaf presented for SolSpec as part of the Product Preview Presentation at Commercial UAV Expo.



Learn more about the Product Preview Presentation and Commercial UAV Expo.

October 30

UAV Expo: SolSpec Wins Big at Pitch the Press

UAV Expo: SolSpec Wins Big at Pitch the Press

Robert Blank presented for SolSpec at the Commercial UAV Expo’s Pitch the Press. SolSpec’s team applied to participate, and we were selected as one of 15 out of over 40 applicants to make it to the final session. The 15 participants had the opportunity to give a 2-minute presentation, and based on Robert’s presentation we were selected as one of the top three winners that stood out from the crowd!


Here are some highlights from the Commercial UAV Expo Press Release: “Three companies were selected today as the winners of Pitch the Press at Commercial UAV Americas 2019: A2Z, Agrowing, and SolSpec. Their latest products, which were pitched to a panel of high-profile press representatives at the show, were deemed the most innovative and promising technology amongst a competitive group of 15 presenters…The panel selected [SolSpec] for its ability to take data and generate a useable, actionable report. Many solutions out there are gathering the data but provide little to no support with analyzing that data to provide actionable solutions. This solution was unique in that it packages that data into actionable items so that users can focus on what needs to get done. By not simply giving users a “data dump” they’ll be able to take a proactive approach that enables stakeholders to address issues before they become problems.”


Read the full press release to learn more.

November 1

SolSpec Awarded OGRC Grant to Develop Remote Reclamation Assessment Tool

oil pump north dakota

Thanks to Kat Kraft, John Norman, and Nathan Casler’s hard work, SolSpec has been awarded an OGRC Grant from North Dakota Industrial Commission. The proposed project, titled Development of Operational Aerial Analytics for Remotely Measuring Reclamation Success in North Dakota, will be carried out over a period of 16 months in collaboration with Whiting Petroleum Corporation. The primary goal of this project is to develop and validate a suite of automated analytics that bring remote reclamation assessment technology to operational capacity for industry, agencies, and the interested public of North Dakota. Along with Whiting, we will also collaborate on this project with our sister company Duraroot.


Read more about the grant on our blog!


November 11

Toby Kraft Presents at PLIMC

Toby Kraft spoke about risk management at the Pipeline Insurers Managers Conference (PLIMC). The goal of the talk was to educate representatives of insurance companies that are providers for oil and gas companies about the impact of aerial analytics on risk management.

November 14

John Norman Presents at North Dakota Energy Conference

John Norman Presents at North Dakota Energy Conference
John Norman presented “Redefining Pipeline Safety with UAS-Based Inspection Programs” at the North Dakota Energy Conference and Expo.
Learn more about the North Dakota Energy Conference and Expo:
December 4

Team Climb at Earth Treks in Golden

Team Climb at Earth Treks in Golden

We have a few climbers in our midst, and the number may be increasing! Thanks to the efforts of Katrina Engelsted and Jacob Spurgin we had our first evening group climb with some of the SolSpec team. The brave people that joined them: Andrew Keohane and Angie Woodmansee. Hope to see more people the next time we go, it was a great experience and fun to do something together that’s so different from work!


Also, in case you’re wondering if your read on Katrina being a badass is correct:


December 4

SolSpec Welcomes Seth and Sam

SolSpec Welcomes Seth and Sam

We wrapped up 2019 with a big step forward – we now have a formal Sales Team! We welcomed Seth Tribbey and Sam Acheson, who bring invaluable sales, industry, and software product experience to our team.

December 6

SolSpec Settled in Lakewood Offices

SolSpec Settled in Lakewood Offices

After a lot of effort and hard work on the part of our contractors, the SolSpec team got to settle at last into our new home in the Lakewood offices!

After only a monthin the space, we couldn’t be more pleased. The area gets much more sunlight, and windows throughout the offices mean it’s usually bright. Our view overlooks downtown Denver, and while the smog cloud can sometimes be unsettling, it is stunning. The biggest improvement? We now have several conference rooms, so no one will catch us on the phone or holding meetings in the hallways or building break room anymore!

December 20

SolSpec Featured in a Variety of Publications

SolSpec Featured in a Variety of Publications

Thanks to the hard work and efforts of Heather Racicot, we’ve been featured in the following publications:


  • DroneLife
  • LiDAR Mag
  • LiDAR News
  • GIS User
  • Commercial Drone Professional 
  • Commercial UAV News
  • POB
  • Comercial UAV News
  • Commercial UAV
  • GISCafe
  • UAS Weekly
  • xyHt
  • Oil & Gas 360
  • Stonefort Group
  • Earth Imaging Journal
  • Sensors & Systems 
  • GIS Cafe
  • Geospatial World


December 20

SolSpec Joins Huwa Holiday Party

SolSpec Joins Huwa Holiday Party

Angie Woodmansee and Adam Dutko represented the SolSpec team at the annual Huwa holiday party! We deeply appreciate what the Huwas and everyone in Keenesburg have made possible for us, and we’re grateful for partnership, for the industry experience these partnerships bring, and to have a chance to come together and celebrate the holidays. An unexpected perk – gift bags of delicious steak from Huwa Ranch! Anyone who missed out can always head to their website and place an order!

December 30

First Analysis Complete with West Moberly Joint Venture

First Analysis Complete with West Moberly Joint Venture

Ryan Pelzel of SolSpec Canada reports that the first imagery analysis was completed under the West Moberly Joint Venture for TC Energy! The first stage of this project covered 181 km for the North Montney Mainline Project.

December 31

Bryan Crowe Keynote Speaker at INGAA Annual Meeting

Bryan Crowe Keynote Speaker at INGAA Annual Meeting

SolSpec COO Bryan Crowe was invited as the keynote speaker to the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America’s (INGAA) Steep Slope Construction Workshop. Bryan spoke on Right-of-Way Integrity Management, pipeline construction, and the impact of employing aerial analytics to identify safer routes, improve the efficacy of implemented best practices, and enhance monitoring success.


The invitation to speak came as a direct result of Bryan’s June 2019 discussion with Russel Treat on the Pipeliner’s podcast. Listen to their conversation on Ground Movement and Pipeline Integrity to learn more! Read more about Steep Slope Construction best practices, detailed in a report created in a collaboration of eight energy companies led by The Nature Conservancy.


How Soil Movement Impacts Right-of-Way Integrity

How Soil Movement Impacts Right-of-Way Integrity

How does soil movement impact pipeline and right-of-way integrity? Traditional integrity management focuses on the pipeline, but a pipeline integrity also depends on the stability of its environment. A pipeline that is structurally sound but buried in a hillslope at risk for mass soil movement is not safe. 

Earth movement puts strain on a pipeline and can cause a rupture or failure. These ruptures or failures then result in environmental damage and loss in throughput. A May 2019 PHMSA bulletin highlights steps that address the integrity of the areas surrounding the pipeline that may be prone to earth movement. These areas and other zones with geohazard threats are at a higher risk for future incidents. 

One of the common challenges with earth movement is landslides. There are two different types of landslides, also referred to as slips: translational and rotational. Translational slips are what you think of when you imagine a landslide, an incident when the whole hillside falls down and there is a massive flow of dirt coming off of the hillside. A rotational slip is when a bowl forms underneath the ground and the dirt moves below the surface in a circular motion. The soil rotates instead of falling off the hillside, which means it is less obvious that a slip is in progress. Since the change and movement is not clear to the naked eye, it’s very difficult to identify rotational slips until they are fully underway. Continuous monitoring is one way to identify the subtle changes that indicate more happening beneath the surface. 

Several conditions create rotational slips. In Appalachia heavy forestation and steep slopes are a challenge, but the soil also contributes to rotational slips. The soil there is based in clay, which tends to soak up water. Whenever water accumulates, it creates movement on and off the right-of-way, and can create serious risks for pipeline and right-of-way integrity. When there is a risk, being able to direct resources where they matter most has the greatest impact. To do that you need to know where to go, quickly. In both routine monitoring and incident response, timely information is key. 

Soil movement, among other changes, can be detected before it begins to impact pipeline movement, but only with routine flights to monitor gradual change and analytic models to interpret the data. Mitigation efforts are much more effective and efficient if they start at the outset of environmental change, instead of after significant impact has already occurred.

As SolSpec’s COO Bryan Crowe says, “Data is only as good as the decisions that you can make from it.” Given the right information at the right time, operators and contractors can mitigate these issues without a pipeline shutdown.

Timely delivery has been a challenge with data in the pipeline industry. If the data is collected but the report arrives 30 days later, how can that be helpful? A lot can happen in a month, and the delay with reporting combined with the volume of data and the lack of sufficient models to analyze and interpret it has left many without the insights they need to inform their decisions.

If you’re a decision-maker, and you’re responsible for a five-state region, how much time do you actually have to make decisions? There certainly isn’t time to go over a spreadsheet with thousands of entries and identify which ones are the highest priority. The team at SolSpec is focused on providing timely, actionable data, and scalable solutions that make it possible for a client to fly today and have the answer in the morning.

SolSpec Transforms Risk Assessments for Civil Infrastructure Inspections with New Aerial Data Geoprocessing Platform

SolSpec Transforms Risk Assessments for Civil Infrastructure Inspections with New Aerial Data Geoprocessing Platform

New cloud-based solution improves geohazard risk-assessment and erosion control monitoring with fast, accurate, predictive risk analysis

LAS VEGAS – Oct. 29, 2019 – Today at the Commercial UAV Expo, SolSpec, Inc. announced early access to its flagship aerial analytics and data management platform, a cloud-based geoprocessing solution that transforms aerial data into actionable risk analysis and predictive modeling to empower civil and energy infrastructure owners and operators to identify and mitigate problems at every stage of the asset lifecycle. With industry-leading processing speeds, integrated artificial intelligence, and an intuitive web-based interface for creating, organizing and sharing 2D and 3D maps and models and reports, the SolSpec platform enables fast, accurate geohazard risk monitoring and mitigation.

SolSpec will showcase its software at Commercial UAV Expo Booth 601 and will deliver a Product Preview Presentations at the Exhibit Hall Theater, Wed. Oct. 30 at 1:45 pm.

“We built the SolSpec platform to unlock the unprecedented value that can be created by combining aerial data with ground-based project data,” said Tobias Kraft, founder and CEO of SolSpec. “We’re working with some of the nation’s largest energy infrastructure operators, environmental consulting firms and policymakers to advance our our risk prediction models and analyses to deliver fast, reliable solutions that help solve complex problems involving energy, civil infrastructure, environment and natural resources management. We’re excited to announce a new wave of customer onboarding to the SolSpec platform for accurate geohazard risk monitoring and mitigation.”

The SolSpec platform has been in closed beta for three months, used in conjunction with SolSpec’s recently-released ROW Integrity Management product, a programmatic approach with a suite of tools, analytics and reports currently used by dozens of contractors, surveyors, engineers and pipeline operators in the oil and gas and energy industries. To date, the platform has processed and analyzed over 130 TB of aerial data, collected from over 3 million acres, with millions more planned for the first half of next year. SolSpec is now welcoming a limited number of qualified companies to join the early access program. Interested energy, civil and surveying professionals can apply here.

Geohazards and land disturbances such as landslides, erosion and subsidence, and other mass soil movement pose a threat to critical infrastructure such as pipelines. Through a combination of SolSpec’s drone flight plans and manned-aircraft operations, data collection and advanced analytics powered by SolSpec’s massively-scalable processing engines, operators can detect and predict hazards and gather actionable insights to strategically prioritize mitigation efforts. This proactive approach enables stakeholders to address issues before they become problems, reduce or eliminate the severity of impact, reduce time to respond or repair, and reduce costs, while protecting the environment and public safety.

Key features and capabilities:

  • Supports imagery from airborne sensors including drones, manned aircraft and satellites, and processes multiple data types including photogrammetry, GIS Data and survey data.
  • The company routinely incorporates project-specific data collected by environmental consulting firms to strengthen models.
  • Using high performance cloud computing and spatial clustering the platform is massively scalable, able to process large datasets simultaneously with unprecedented speed and geodetic accuracy — processing imagery in minutes or hours, not days or weeks.
  • Intuitive, easy-to-use web interface allows users to easily create and share interactive maps, models, and reports. The ability to process multiple flights from numerous pilots on shared projects simultaneously allows for efficient, rapid workflows.
  • Secure, redundant and unlimited storage prevents loss and unauthorized access of data.
  • A full suite of industry-specific analysis tools and workflows tailored to the oil and gas industry and civil engineering industries.
  • Streamlined compliance reporting with at-a-glance summaries and regulator-approved reporting documentation, covering projects ranging from a few acres to thousands.

“With SolSpec, we eliminate much of the guesswork from identifying issues that pose the greatest risk to our projects,” said Todd Knapp, Vice President at Hanging H Companies, a pipeline construction company. “Using SolSpec, we can now confidently and accurately predict where and how geohazards, stormwater and erosion could impact assets before they occur, and assess why they occurred after the fact. This means better construction planning, safer operations, fewer incidents and shut-ins, reduced costs and greater confidence for pipeline integrity and safe operations.”

Todd Knapp and SolSpec CEO Toby Kraft will present during the Commercial UAV Expo on “Advancing Pipeline Safety with Aerial Analytics and UAVs,” Tuesday 10/29 at 2:00 pm in Pavilion 3. For more information visit

The broad commercial release of the platform is expected in the first quarter of 2020.

About SolSpec
SolSpec, Inc. is a leading provider of data analytics to the energy and civil engineering markets. SolSpec’s solution utilizes high-throughput data processing and artificial intelligence algorithms to identify and predict project-based risk for pipeline right of ways (ROW), infrastructure construction and large land development projects. Founded in 2017, SolSpec today works with some of the largest companies in the midstream oil and gas industry. Visit us online at

SolSpec to Present at 2019 Pipeline Technology Forum

SolSpec to Present at 2019 Pipeline Technology Forum

DENVER, Colorado – Sept. 26, 2019 – SolSpec, a provider of aerial analytics for integrity management of large scale land use projects, is pleased to announce an upcoming presentation at the 2019 Pipeline Technology Forum, to be held October 2-3 in Houston, TX.

SolSpec Chief Operating Officer, Bryan Crowe, will be presenting on Redefining Pipeline Safety with UAS-based Inspection Programs, 2:00 pm on Wednesday, Oct 2. (Conference Track Two: Remote Sensing and Emerging Technologies). Bryan will cover how the use of drones and advanced data analytics are helping midstream pipeline construction companies and operators monitor and identify possible vulnerabilities before they become safety hazards.

The Rising Need
Between 1999 to 2018, PHMSA reported a total of 11,991 incidents of compromised pipeline integrity, resulting in 318 deaths and 1,304 injuries, with over $8 billion USD in total cost (source) Most traditional Integrity Management programs look only at pipeline itself, leading to the development of technologies such as In-Line Inspection (ILI) tools to examine pipeline structure, strain, and stability. Yet a pipeline’s stability is also largely dependent on the stability of its environmental surroundings, as a pipeline can be perfectly built, but buried within a hillslope prone to mass soil movement resulting in an increased risk of a failure. Further, with record rain and extreme weather events resulting in widespread flooding, landslides, major soil changes, scouring, and erosion across the U.S., the risk is rising. PHMSA recently released an advisory bulletin about the potential for damage to pipeline facilities caused by earth movement and other geological hazards (see link).

Learn more through two case studies:

Operators need a more comprehensive, data-driven method to evaluate risk that goes beyond the physical pipe and includes its environmental context. Identifying environmental conditions on and off the ROW that may threaten the integrity of pipeline infrastructure is crucial for timely mitigation and adequate preparation for future challenges.

“Just as ILI technology is changing the way operators conduct internal pipe inspections, aerial analytics will transform external pipeline risk assessments and environmental inspections as part of comprehensive Right of Way Integrity Management,” said Bryan Crowe, COO of SolSpec.

Join SolSpec’s Bryan Crowe at the 2019 Pipeline Technology Forum for an informative talk on how aerial analytics are bringing greater value to pipeline integrity management programs. To view the full agenda and updated times for this event, please visit the event website.

The Pipeline Technology Forum is the major event of the year for geospatial professionals working in the oil and gas infrastructure sector. Produced in conjunction with Pipeline & Gas Journal, a Gulf Energy Information publication and the Geospatial Information Technology Association (GITA), the two-day forum features general sessions, technical presentations on the use of geospatial technologies, pipeline software and other applied technologies for the industry, panel discussions and exhibits.

About SolSpec
SolSpec was founded in 2016 to improve environmental and public safety and to increase efficiencies for the energy industry using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology. SolSpec’s Aerial Analytics platform represents best-in-class data processing and data management for all UAV and aerial imagery. Our analytics were born from 120 cumulative years in Natural Resource Sciences and are formulated to specifically predict and prevent unexpected occurrences in large scale land use projects. With SolSpec, you can make decisions from your desk instead of the field and ultimately reduce risk, time and expenditure. Visit us online at

How Oil and Gas Midstream Is Moving Into the Digital Age

How Oil and Gas Midstream Is Moving Into the Digital Age

The oil and gas pipeline industry is constantly evolving, becoming safer, and more efficient. One of the best methods to do this is by digitizing. In this article, we will discuss the digitization process and what it means for the midstream oil and gas companies that are taking advantage of this process as well as what it means for those that are not.

What Is Digitizing and How Does It Apply to the Oil and Gas Midstream Industry

Digitizing is the act of converting data into a format that computers can read. Essentially, the digitization (also known as digitalization) process creates a digital image that can be used by both people and computers. An example of this could be converting images into a midstream pipeline map.

hillslope threat
Using SolSpec’s software platform you can view your site’s hillslope threats.

Once digitized, computer software could analyze the map and check for slope anomalies and other threats to the ROW. Using UAVs and continuous monitoring services, this data could be continuously updated. The computer could then compare the integrity of past slopes with current ones which could be used to alert midstream operators of any changes.

In the past, this was a process that human inspectors would have done as they could have inspected on-site or through manual image review. As you can imagine, it was both time-consuming and labor-intensive. Digitizing made this process much faster and reduced the work required. Let’s look at some other ways digitization has helped midstream operations.

Data-Driven Mapping and Anomaly Checking Verses Reviewing Images by Human Eye

There are many advantages of using data-driven mapping and anomaly checking compared to manual methods of human eye image review. Some benefits include:

  • An increase in speed
  • An increase in safety
  • Easier compliance with government regulations
  • Better protection of the environment
  • A better public image of pipeline operations
  • Reduced costs

Speed Increases

Yale University Press reports that a personal computer can now operate 1 billion times faster than the human brain. Not only this, but it also works with much higher skill. This is because a computer can represent and distinguish 4.2 billion data differences. Man simply cannot biologically reach this level of accuracy with the human eye alone.

As a result, companies that take advantage of digitization get more accurate reports and get them faster. Speed itself is useful, but it also has many other benefits.

Safety Increases

Increased processing speeds improve safety. The quicker the computer can relay slope changes to midstream pipeline companies, the faster these slopes can be repaired. Repairing a slope early could avoid a landslip while the ramifications of repairing too late could potentially be catastrophic.

The human eye can’t always detect slope changes as early as a computer can. Consequently, companies that use software to search for these slope changes will always find them sooner than if they rely solely on a human inspector.

A Better Relationship with the Government, Environment, and the Public

A midstream pipeline company is always going to have to work with government on a local, state, and national level. Each government agency has its own needs and expectations. Using data-driven mapping and digitized data helps midstream companies meet and even exceed these expectations.

Quick data collection and anomaly checking also help protect the local environment. Computer software can be used to check for ROW encroachment into protected habitats. Any encroachments can be quickly rectified before any damage to the local environment occurs.

Such swift actions lead to better public relations. This facilitates future business for midstream pipeline companies. Conversely, companies relying on human-reviewed anomaly checks tend to be less proactive and often end up having to repair problems only after the damage has been done to surrounding areas. This can make acquiring future contracts difficult.

Reduced Costs

According to a report written by the World Economic Forum, “digitalization has the potential to create around $1 trillion of value for Oil and Gas firms”.

Costs savings include:

  • Reducing time for completion of pipeline goals
  • Reducing slope failures
  • Reducing ROW encroachment and overgrowth
  • Reducing environmental damage

Time Savings

Digitization improves the speed of virtually every midstream pipeline action. For example, sensors can be used to detect abnormal temperatures, so inspectors need not take constant readings. Midstream pipeline operators can access real-time data at any time during pipeline operation, and midstream pipeline services can be requested immediately as situations arise.

Learn more through two case studies:

This reduces the time it takes to rectify any pipeline issues, which in turn reduces the time the pipeline remains inactive. According to PG&E, a gas pipeline could send gas at rates of around 15 mph through the line. Two hours of downtime and customers could find their gas 30 miles away when they need it.

Slope Failure Reductions

Continuous monitoring can lead to a reduction in slope failures, often causing considerable damage to pipeline operations. Slopes can be protected as soon as outside influences begin to affect them.

For example, a company using digitization to perform anomaly checks quickly finds a slope losing its integrity. Upon further examination, this company finds that the area adjacent to this slope funnels water into the slope, causing damage. The company can take steps to eliminate or slow this water flow before the slope is severely damaged. This eliminates the costly repairs that would have had to be done on the slope if the situation were allowed to continue for a longer time.

Encroachment of a ROW and the Environment

Finding and stopping ROW encroachment and plant overgrowth can also save costs. That’s because cutting trees is less expensive when they’re young and small than when they’re bigger. The larger the tree, the more equipment will be needed to cut it down. Larger equipment is expensive to operate and more likely to cause ROW damage.

The reduction in environmental damage, as a direct result of digitization, can also help to save midstream oil and gas companies money. This is because environmental damage can lead to fines and lawsuits. Not only this, but the damage must be repaired, which can be costly on its own.

The Benefits of Digitization and Aerial Analytics in Midstream Pipeline Operations

The combination of aerial analytics and digitization benefit oil and gas pipeline projects. Additional reasons to digitize midstream pipeline operations include:

  • Digitizing makes planning and the allocation of midstream oil and gas assets clearer and more accurate
  • Safety checks can be done before endangering humans
  • Continuous ROW and pipeline monitoring can be done faster and more accurately
  • Non-destructive examinations can be facilitated

Digitizing can help companies to allocate their resources better. Maps created through aerial analytics can be used to discover geohazards so that teams will know what to expect before they head out into the field. This means planners will have a better idea of what their midstream pipeline investment will cost them before boots ever hit the ground.

Digitization and aerial analytics can work together to provide continuous monitoring of the ROW. This gives midstream oil and gas companies the ability to discover issues as they arise and to deal with them before they have a chance to cause any damage to the pipeline, the ROW, the workers, or the surrounding areas.

Also, digitized aerial analytics data can be used to eliminate environmental damage that traditional inspection teams may have in the past. UAVs, for example, can be used non-invasively to access nearby ROW areas. This allows inspection without ever driving or stepping on.

Final Thoughts

Digitization and aerial analytics have revolutionized midstream oil and gas pipelines. It made the entire industry much safer, more cost-effective, and less labor-intensive. Companies using these technologies serve their customers better while earning more money.

Solspec is happy to help in any way we can. Our company has many years of combined experience and is willing to put that knowledge to work. We offer constant monitoring, and 3D models, as well as industry standard reports to help monitor any and all terrain.

Aerial Analytics: LiDAR vs. Photogrammetry

Aerial Analytics: LiDAR vs. Photogrammetry

Two of the best land survey methods are LiDAR and photogrammetry. These survey methods can collect more data in a shorter timeframe than any other survey methods.

But what is better, LiDAR or photogrammetry? Before we can answer this question, we have to talk about what LiDAR and photogrammetry really are; and their similarities and differences.

In the next few sections, we will go over what LiDAR and photogrammetry are and how they are used to collect data. We will also address their practical use in the field, as well as the cases in which one might be better than the other.

What is LiDAR?

The acronym LiDAR stands for “light detection and ranging.” Simply put, LiDAR is a laser beam-based technology that uses laser light to help create maps. A laser beam and a sensor are used in conjunction to determine where objects are in relation to the sensor as well as each other.

These LiDAR point clouds are a collection of points that represent a 3D shape or feature

This technology can be mounted on ground-based devices, airplanes, helicopters, satellites, and UAVs. LiDAR use on UAVs is increasingly popular as it is less expensive than using aircraft and satellites, and faster and more efficient than using ground-based tools.

LiDAR system components

Lidar consists of four main components.
The vehicle on which the LiDAR system is mounted, such as a plane, UAV, satellite, or ground based system. This will have the LiDAR unit mounted to it. This is the device that contains the sensor and the laser.

A GPS receiver is also located on the device. This receiver is used to determine not only the latitude and longitude of the objects that are scanned but the altitude as well.

An inertial measurement unit helps to improve GPS receiver accuracy. The unit determines the angle of the vehicle. For example, the inertial measurement unit will keep track of the angle of the plane as it flies over the targeted area.

A computer is used to record all of this data. It records the burst of light that is sent out from the LiDAR system as well as the reflected light energy that is recorded from the LiDAR system. The time that it takes for the light energy to get from the object back to the LiDAR system is used to determine distances and altitudes.

What is LiDAR Used For?

LiDAR technology is used by many different industries and government agencies. It can be used to help predict the weather, create topographic maps, survey water bodies, and even create autonomous vehicle navigation systems.
An example of LiDAR data in use is the NOAA using it to monitor coastlines. This LiDAR data has been made public and is available here.

Another example might be the use of LiDAR data to create a pipeline corridor map. LiDAR data use, in this instance, would help the pipeline company access the terrain to plan construction and maintenance work.
photogrammetry image
This is an example of a photogrammetry output.

What is Photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry uses cameras to create photographs that can be used to create measurements. In essence, it takes 2D photographs and converts them into 3D models.

Like LiDAR, a photogrammetry system can be mounted on ground-based devices, planes, helicopters, satellites, and UAVs. Also, as with LiDAR, UAVs are becoming popular vehicles for photogrammetry systems.

Photogrammetry systems components

A photogrammetry system consists of a few essential parts, they are:

The vehicle to which the photogrammetry system is mounted. A satellite, UAV, helicopter, plane, or ground-based vehicle can be used to carry a photogrammetry system. The vehicle used to carry the system can be as simple as a person with a tripod or as advanced as a satellite in Earth’s orbit. But, nowadays, the most common vehicle for a photogrammetry system is a UAV.

The camera will take photographs from different angles.

The GPS system and inertial measurement unit both work to determine where the camera is and what angle the vehicle and camera are at when these pictures are taken. The computer will store this data or transmit it back to a larger and more powerful server.

A computer. This data will then need to be processed by advanced software to create useful information. Photogrammetry usually requires much more data analysis and detailed maps. Photogrammetry can often take five times as long to create when compared to LiDAR data post production times.

What is Photogrammetry Used For?

Photogrammetry is used to create maps, drawings, and 3D models. Engineers, land surveyors, real estate firms, and many other businesses have found ways to use photogrammetry.

An engineer might, for example, use photogrammetry to help them plan a highway, a railroad, or even a dam. Before starting a new development project, a real estate firm could use photogrammetry to survey a particular piece of land.

Another example would be the use of photogrammetry to create accurate aerial views of pipelines for natural gas. They could then use this data to help keep the gas lines free from growing vegetation or inspect potential landslide hazards.

Advantages of LiDAR vs. photogrammetry

Advantages of LiDAR

Advantages of photogrammetry

Extremely accurate when it comes to surveying an area, especially when collecting data from the ground. Can create full-color 2D and 3D models, whereas LiDAR can only capture data in monochrome.
Captures more data, faster than photogrammetry. When taken from UAVs or other aerial vehicles, photogrammetry systems can often create models more accurately.
Data can be captured in low-light settings, including completely dark environments. This accuracy can also be achieved at a much lower price point. The laser source and detector, timing electronics, mirror, and motor are all more expensive for LiDAR than photogrammetry technology, according to
Data can be processed faster into usable information and maps than photogrammetry. According to, the raw data from LiDAR can be processed in just a few minutes. Comparatively, photogrammetry can take five to ten times longer. Equipment for photogrammetry is lighter than LiDAR. This means a lighter UAV can be used. A larger UAV might need a more experienced operator to fly.

When to Use LiDAR Over Photogrammetry

LiDAR excels in low-light environments and in creating astonishingly precise models. It’s also great to quickly collect and interpret data. This makes it ideal for projects where specific timelines need to be met.

A situation in which one might want to select LiDAR over photogrammetry is in high vegetation survey areas. This is because the vegetation will create shadows and obscure the ground, making it more challenging to collect accurate data using photogrammetry.

An example of this could be the U.S. Forestry Service using LiDAR to monitor a state forest section’s health. In industry, it could be a company using LiDAR to help autonomous vehicles navigate a highway at night.

When to Use Photogrammetry Over LiDAR

Photogrammetry can create full – color maps with images that are much more detailed than those created by using LiDAR. Often at lower prices.

In industry, a mining company may want to use photogrammetry to show the elevation and terrain around a mine or transport route, such as a pipeline or railroad. This information might help prevent natural disasters like floods and landslides.

A government agency may want to create topographic maps that can be used to help with rescue operations. For example, a drone might be sent to an area that is experiencing wildfires. Photogrammetry could be used to map areas that are currently fire-affected to help rescue crews evacuate surrounding areas.

This is not the only area where the government could use photogrammetry. One surprising way in which it is currently being used is in crime scene investigation. They use photogrammetry to quickly create a record of the crime scene so that it can quickly be cleaned up before the investigation is complete. This has become especially helpful in traffic collisions as roads can be reopened without any delays from crime scene investigators.

Final Thoughts

LiDAR and photogrammetry both use some of the same vehicles to collect their data. With the data they collect, they can also create some of the same resources.

These technologies, however, are both very different, and they both have strengths and weaknesses that complement each other. Sometimes using LiDAR data will be more beneficial than using photogrammetry, while other times the reverse will be true. In other cases, you might want to collect data using both of these technologies.

SolSpec uses LiDAR and photogrammetric units mounted to UAVs to inspect gas and oil pipeline pathways. Our fast data gathering and turnaround, as well as the latest in LiDAR and Photogrammetric technologies, facilitate regulatory compliance and environmental safety.