The advent of technology and the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with drone development, thermal imaging, methane gas detection, has been the major factor that convinced the oil and natural gas industries to adopt drones.
With the addition of specific electromagnetic sensors, drones are being used to gather geological information to help geophysicists identify, and better approximate the location and presence of minerals, oil, and natural gas.
Oil companies can use drones to inspect pipelines in remote areas. Offshore oil rigs are typically difficult to maintain, which is potentially hazardous.
Drones can be a huge help because they can fly into hard-to-reach places. The same goes for monitoring oil fields and pipelines, which can be vast and tough for a human to keep track of.
Several oil and gas companies such as BP, Shell, etc. are using drones as part of digitizing their operation across all the three sectors: mineral, oil and natural gas.
Although drones offer the most cost-effective and efficient monitoring methods, technological limitation, such as shorter flight time, low speed, vulnerability to hackers, and susceptibility to weather, make drones less attractive.
The North America continent is dominated by the United States and the increase in the offshore oil and natural gas activities in the region is expected to drive the growth market significantly.
The Integration of Drones with Artificial Intelligence (AI)
In the past decade, the operation of drones required them to remain within the sites. With the development of AI, however, the drones can hover beyond the line of sight. The integration of AI has helped the drones to fly beyond the visual-line-of-sight, and gather much more data without the need of any human assistance. This makes it possible for the data to be collected and more thoroughly analyzed, which helps the oil and gas operator to prevent mishaps or leakage, during the operation.
The modern drones are smarter and faster in processing the voluminous data produced from the assets, and as the AI improves, these drones may be able to independently decide further course of actions, through its AI capabilities.
The integration of drones with AI can also help the operators to relate the current data with the data collected from the past and help them take proactive measures by maneuvering the action required before the occurrence of fatalities, as in case of leakage and spills.
Drones are now able to work independently with the AI integrated sensor and move inside a closed building without being prone to colliding with the walls. As these technologies keep improving, the application for these drones will increase and drive the market.
North America Domination
North America has been the major market for drone services in recent years and is expected to be the largest market in terms of market share. North America is dominated by the United States and the increase in the offshore oil and gas activities in the region is expected to increase the growth of the market.
There are applications for drones at every stage of oil and natural gas exploration. As the first stage traditional surveying methods can often take too long, which typically results in project delays and ballooning costs, drones speed up the collection of accurate survey grade data at a much faster rate. Hard-to-reach areas are obviously easier to access with a small drone. Once construction commences, work progress can also be monitored by a drone with ease and the project manager can monitor progress in real time from the comfort and safety of his office.
Pipeline connections need regular inspection because of wear and tear resulting from hostile weather conditions or poor construction. Drones are ideal in doing these regular inspections because there are hundreds of miles between the oil rig and the refinery.
Photogrammetry can be useful in monitoring progress in construction. Spills and leakages can easily be detected with an EO camera, whereas hot spots, leakages in underground pipes, and other areas of potential risk, require a thermal camera.
Facility shut-downs are also prevented by drones. Because refineries burn off waste gas to produce more useful material, inspecting such flame stacks is required by industrial regulations. By using drones, human intervention is not needed, and drones can produce more accurate data.
Increase in offshore activities is expected to increase the demand for drone services in the United States.
Present & Future Opportunities
The impact of drones in the oil and gas industry results in increased speed with which to get tasks done. This results in one more proactively determining a more thorough risk mitigation strategy to minimize future risks. Drones also enables one to save a significant amount of money, thus making it more financially feasible for small businesses.
As a result of expected stabilized oil prices from the end of 2019 and declining drilling cost, the offshore rig count and offshore oil production of the country were expected to increase.
The oil and gas industry is a high margin, high industry. High grade equipment and skilled organization is needed. For those who can meet such demands, the potential is immense.
The demand for associated infrastructure, such as pipelines and refineries, are expected to increase in this market, which offers greater business opportunities for the providers of oil and gas drone service.
The global oil and gas drone services market is expected to grow at approximately 60.96% during 2020–2025. At this time, however, we simply don’t know what impact the Coronavirus will have on this industry. Although it is anticipated to slow the economy, the question is, how much and for how long? What we do know is that it won’t last forever.
When the Covid 19 nightmare is over, it is likely that there will be a great resurgence in the gas and oil industry. After all, our country is still dependent on oil and gas.