Drones make strides in oil and gas infrastructure inspection and repair


Drones keep strutting their stuff when it comes to commercial applications, with more news this week about drones helping maintain and repair oil and gas industry infrastructure.

Not only has Sky-Futures raised a hefty sum in a second funding round, but a drone research team took first place in the Drones for Good Award for its drone prototype that can detect and fix leaks in pipelines.

Source: Sky-Futures

Sky-Futures, which uses drones to capture and analyze data about oil rigs and gas pipelines, raised $5.7 million this week. This amount gets added to the initial $3.8 million in Series A funding that it raised last May.

Bristow Group, a helicopter service company in the energy industry, invested $4.2 million, according to a Sky-Futures press release. The other $1.5 million came from existing investor MMC Ventures, according to TechCrunch.

Sky-Futures offers a safer, cost-effective way of inspecting oil rigs to stop problems before they happen. Drones inspect live flare stacks, splash zones, decommissioning, general topside work and under deck, using HD video and still and thermal imagery.

Sky-Futures is currently working in the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, Middle East, South East Asia and North Africa with more 36 oil and gas companies.

But the pipeline work for drones doesn't stop at detection. According to an Imperial College of London press release, a drone prototype has been developed that can detect and fix pipeline leaks itself. The project, dubbed Buildrone and part of Imperial's Aerial Robotics Lab, took first place at the United Arab Emirates' Drones for Good Award competition.

The drone prototype can detect a gas, oil or chemical leak in a pipeline and then "print" materials that can seal the leak. "Compared to current methods where humans have to maintain pipelines, our approach offers major time and cost savings while simultaneously reducing risks to engineers when doing inspection and repair tasks," said Talib Alhinai, a doctoral student in Imperial's Department of Aeronautics, who led the Buildrone team.

For more: 
- read the Sky-Futures release
- read the TechCrunch article
- read the the release from the Imperial College of London

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