Drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are revolutionizing pipeline projects and ground surveying as a whole. Through UAVs, pipeline companies can save money, improve their safety standards, and head off any environmental issues before they occur. Here are just a few of the ways how UAVs can improve a pipeline project.
1. Producing Fast Aerial Surveys
Aerial surveys have to be completed at the beginning of any pipeline project. From logging potential manmade obstructions to identifying any environmental concerns, the accuracy of a pipeline survey is critical to the project’s success. Pipeline surveys have to be completed quickly, or the project itself can be stalled. Further, the surveys have to be as comprehensive as possible.
UAVs can cover more ground faster than traditional surveying solutions, as well as being safer and less expensive than manned aerial surveys. By flying lower than manned aerial surveys, UAVs can produce higher resolution, more accurate images while still producing their surveys quickly.
When it comes to pipeline projects, many millions of dollars may be invested, and the project itself may need to go through multiple stages of analysis, permitting, surveying, and environmental studies. At every level of the project’s management, a delay could mean the loss of a substantial amount of money. UAVs are an elegant solution to this, as even multiple surveys can often be completed with as little as a 24-hour turnaround.
2. Performing Faster Maintenance and Repairs
UAVs aren’t just used at the beginning of projects. When combined with sensors, they become a powerful early detection system for needed maintenance and repairs. UAVs can be used to fly over pipeline projects, identifying signs that there could be problems on the horizon. Pipeline issues can be fixed before they need to be, thereby reducing the chances that an expensive or costly repair could be needed. Through UAVs, additional maintenance checks can be performed, and costly on-the-ground checks may not be needed as frequently.
Today, UAVs are frequently used to detect potentially hazardous issues such as gas leaks. They can also use heat signatures to identify whether there may be something abnormal occurring throughout the pipeline. UAVs have the ability to send back their GPS coordinates, so needed repair sites can be located quickly. Visual assessments can be used to identify areas that may have become corroded over time or may have been damaged by the environment.
3. Simulating Pipeline Projects
Before a pipeline project is even completed, surveys conducted by UAVs can be used to create a full, accurate simulation of the development. These simulations can then be assessed for structural issues, environmental impact, safety, and more. UAVs collect highly accurate, detailed 3D surveys of the terrain, which can then be used to model project information. This project information can be subjected to different environmental simulations, including sun, wind, and rain. The more accurate and detailed the simulations, the less likely the project is to encounter difficulty later on.
4. Improving Environment and Worker Safety
Maintenance and early detection through UAVs doesn’t just reduce a company’s repair costs or reduce company disruption. It can also improve environmental and worker safety. When pipeline projects need repairs or when pipeline projects suffer from damage, they can potentially injure employees or harm the environment. UAV detection is a safe method of detecting and investigating an area — and can be used when it is suspected that there may be a hazardous environment. UAV detection can identify environmental issues before they become substantial.
5. Reducing the Overall Cost of Pipeline Projects
When it comes to pipelines, reducing costs is at the forefront of priorities. Pipeline construction is expensive, but the industry is expanding quickly. And while the industry can be volatile, expansion is the only way to ensure its stability. By improving safety, reducing the need for manned aerial crafts, and preventing delays, UAVs can reduce a project’s overhead. Through this reduced overhead, the pipeline project can allocate its resources to other areas of its development, and create a more successful and reliable project overall.
UAVs aren’t just revolutionizing pipeline projects; they’re revolutionizing the way that the world conducts surveys, performs maintenance, and improves its safety standards. As the pipeline industry continues to grow, unmanned aerial data collection can streamline their processes and reduce their overhead.
Dustin Price is a licensed land surveyor and the operations manager at Landpoint. He leads the company in determining the technical approach for delivering professional, tailored surveying services through UAV technology.