If the general criteria for industrial tasks best suited for automation is that they be dangerous, dirty and dull, then certain industries must be rolling out the red carpet for automation. Oil and gas in particular has to be enthusiastically welcoming the new robot overlords since the oil and gas industry is pretty much powered by dangerous and dirty tasks.
The jury remains out on dull, since there’s so much risk involved in the industry it’s hard to imagine workers not experiencing a slight frisson several times a day, but the point remains: the oil and gas industry and automation appear to be made for each other.
This is especially true when it comes to the combination of automated industrial drones and oil and gas inspections. An automated industrial drone is one that can complete both on-demand and scheduled flights as well as basic maintenance like sensor swapping and battery changing without any human intervention, and it represents the ideal solution for drone inspection and other industrial drone applications.
Here are four very good reasons for oil and gas companies to make the switch.
Because inspections completed by human inspectors put those inspectors at risk
One of the reasons oil and gas equipment and facilities – whether on-shore, off-shore, in the field or at a refinery plant – require such regular inspections is because oil and gas is a dangerous industry. Leaks, fires and fumes can all be devastating, even deadly, and small issues with equipment can quickly turn into big problems if they aren’t found and addressed.
However, even with equipment and operational shutdowns for inspections (more on those below), human inspectors face the risks associated with leaks, fires, fumes and other hazards inherent to the oil and gas industry, including harsh environmental conditions, remote locations and significant heights. In 2018 when an automated drone can so easily launch and complete both regular and on-demand or emergency inspections, there is no reason for human employees to be subject to these hazards.
Because traditional inspections require equipment shutdowns
As made evident by the point above, safety has to come first where human inspectors are concerned, and in the oil and gas industry this often means shutting down equipment or stopping operations while inspections are completed.
As much as oil and gas companies put the safety of their workers first in instances like this, there’s no denying they’d rather find a solution that protects workers while also maintaining production – and that’s precisely what an automated drone for industrial inspections is.
Because inspections that put human inspectors at risk and require equipment shutdowns might not be completed as often as necessary
Think about how often the average person puts off doing something important because it’s difficult or inconvenient. Now think about how easy it would be to decide to bump an inspection because essential production targets were going to be missed or because the only inspector available had already been up two flare stacks and was due to go home half an hour ago.
Completing an inspection needs to be easier than making the decision to not do an inspection. This can only be accomplished with an automated industrial drone that can be launched at a moment’s notice for scheduled or on-demand inspections. Without an automated industrial drone, facilities, their workers, civilians and the environment will all occasionally be put at risk by missed inspections. That’s just the reality of business in an industry subject to high demand.
Because there’s no time to wait for inspectors in a potential emergency
Unfortunately, in the oil and gas industry there are many inspections accompanying potential emergencies, which means getting an inspection completed quickly can be the difference between life and death. Lesser emergencies could also mean serious facility or operational damage. In these instances, there’s no time to wait for a human inspector to respond, arrive, get in his or her gear, and reach the equipment in question.
There’s also no time to wait for a drone pilot to arrive and mobilize a UAV for an inspection. While automated industrial drones offer cost and time saving advantages over standard industrial drones for many different applications, it’s in emergency response where they shine brightest. The immediacy of the flight and the accuracy of the information being transmitted, as the flight will not be impacted by normal human error, can inform decisions that save lives.
Automated industrial drones are an ideal fit for a wide range of industries, but with the many challenges facing the oil and gas industry in terms of both operating safely and efficiently, and completing inspections safely and efficiently, there is perhaps no industry better suited for automated industrial drones. It’s hard to imagine an industry like oil and gas getting to the point where it is no longer dirty and dangerous due to the very nature of the industry, but with the right automated technology, it can go a long way towards keeping workers safe.