Design Energy Engineers Health and Safety Innovation National Grid Pipelines Technology

How drones are aiding the energy sector

Nicholas Newman Eniday October 2017

Drones play a vital role in many parts of the global energy sector…

They are used to inspect and assess the condition of assets, such as energy distribution networks, power plants, pipelines and rigs. They are replacing humans in a variety of dangerous tasks, thus reducing risk and improving workplace safety. In addition, they are aiding the industry’s managers in their decision making.


In the oil industry, drones are replacing conventional inspection techniques which involved workers climbing rigs, pylons and cooling towers etc. According to oil industry recruitment firm Fircroft, drones can be much safer and 85 percent faster and cheaper than human inspections. They allow production to continue and save millions of dollars in lost output.


For example, before drones, inspecting the 70 meter-tall flaring stack at Shell’s Ormen Lange gas processing plant in Norway, used to be a hazardous and lengthy job for engineers. It meant sending staff abseiling down the plant’s tower. To allow such inspections to take place, the plant had to close for two weeks. Today, Shell uses drones controlled by engineers standing on the ground piloting the machines. As a result, the inspections take just a few hours, while the plant keeps running and the engineers are kept safe. Drones, equipped with a range of sensors including high-definition cameras, laser scanners and radar, are replacing humans and helicopters in a whole range of tasks. Such duties include detecting such problems as security issues, vegetation encroachmentsleakages, hot and cold spots. As a result, saving time and money for the industry and its clients. Read more

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