Top Uses for Drones on a Pipeline

picture of drone in the air

October 8th, 2018 by Katrina Engelsted

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Drones and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are powerful tools for pipeline construction and operations. Read more about how drones are making pipeline companies more efficient through aerial mapping and data analytics.

Drones are revolutionizing pipeline construction and operations

Using aerial photography throughout the pipeline construction process is a no-brainer. But drones are just the tip of the iceberg. Today many companies are taking advantage of new technology that translates high-resolution aerial photography into detailed 2-D and 3-D maps and provides insightful data analytics. Together, these high-tech, low-cost tools help pipeline companies make smarter decisions throughout the lifecycle of their project and, ultimately, ensure pipeline integrity.

Here are four ways this new generation of aerial technology is changing the game in pipeline construction and monitoring:

Routing—full-resolution maps to plan smarter

The key to effective routing is to spot challenges—such as wetlands, sensitive streams, or areas prone to landslides—that could cause additional time and money down the road. Traditional aerial photography gives you a bird’s eye view of the terrain. The new generation of aerial technology uses imagery captured by drones with specialized sensors to create full-resolution 2-D and 3-D maps that produce topography contour lines and help identify challenging areas. Besides providing more solid proof of pre-existing conditions, this advanced technology can help pipeline companies plan the best route and better anticipate challenges, which could save millions over the course of a project.

Construction—insightful analytics to stay on top of contractor progress

Depending on the size of the project and the number of contractors, keeping up with what’s happening at each point in the build can be difficult to manage. The latest aerial technology includes insightful data analytics to help create easy-to-understand progress reports that quickly explain exactly what’s happening and where. These reports—which are supplemented by high-resolution imagery—provide a clear and accurate snapshot of the progress being made throughout each phase. This helps owners hold contractors and their workers more accountable from start to finish.

As-Built Documentation—better proof that things were done right

In heavily-regulated industries like oil and gas, it’s critical to keep detailed and accurate documentation that proves contractors provided quality workmanship and adhered to the required standards. High-resolution imagery and multi-dimensional mapping provide added insurance that the project was built in compliance and to spec, while aiding in punch-list generation.

Monitoring and Close Out—thorough documentation for a smooth handoff

After pipeline construction is completed, the project transitions to the operations group who monitors the site. Without comprehensive aerial data, this handoff can be challenging. Having a complete history, documented through high-resolution maps, helps make the transition seamless. In addition, continuing to monitor the right of way with the latest aerial technology will help stakeholders identify any issues before they become multi-million dollar problems.

SolSpec is a nationwide geospatial data company that provides the next generation of aerial technology, including 3-D mapping and insightful data analytics. SolSpec’s enterprise data solutions and cloud processing infrastructure provide information at unprecedented turnaround times, allowing pipeline companies to work smarter and more efficiently.