Humanity witnessed the dawn of drones in the last decade. It started as a simple plaything for fun, but as time went by, its areas of usage have increased drastically with ever-growing production developments over the product. As of this moment, drones can be used for pretty much everything (from commercial aerial surveillance to disaster relief), if one has the mind for it. The energy sector is one of the areas where drones provided several crucial advantages.
It is not a hidden fact that UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is currently being used for the military effort. Recent recordings from Turkey – Syria conflict show how much they can be useful, thereby being observed by experts. Approximately 40% of the world’s oil and gas are produced where conflicts occur. Often, clashes involve attacks on pipelines, power plants, refineries, etc. Last year, attacks to Abqaiq and Khurais facilities reduced Saudi Arabia’s oil production by about half – representing about 5% of global oil production.
To prevent such events, private companies and states started using military drones. Iraq is currently using military drone systems to protect the only operational pipeline with Turkey. The country had more pipelines in the past —to Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia — but they were shut down or destroyed as a result of wars and conflicts. Private companies, Gazprom can be given as an example, as they were already using mercenaries to protect their investments. Military drones became one of their security measures as well.
Inspection & Maintenance
According to recent data, drones are slowly becoming the leading actor of energy facility inspection and maintenance. There are benefits for every category in the sector. For oil, UAV use is getting more prominent on offshore oil rigs, especially. Typically, to avert catastrophes, visual inspections of the entire station need to happen regularly, and this was sorted out with manual inspection by humans. With drone use, the risk is avoided, the cost is decreased, and time is shortened. Similar scenarios are prevalent for solar panels, wind turbines, and power plants as well. There are many areas in these categories that are critical to production but generally unsafe to enter and inspect. Fortunately, an expendable drone that is not susceptible to harsh environments or emissions that would injure a human is now available to be used. Currently, thermal imagery and relevant software are crucial for time-saving, and cost-benefit maintenance actions for considerably all categories, and these features are easily added and started to be analyzed by drones.
Drones are vastly changing the energy world. They are fast machines that can send data in real-time back to technicians that improve the way that each of these companies operates. In the future, where drones are capable of construction in the energy sector as well, we can expect much lower prices for sustaining facilities and renewable energy production.