UAS to be used to Inspect Pipelines, Turbines, and Oil Rigs

Structural inspectors have to climb 200 feet to look around turbines or oil rigs, and use a manned aircraft such as a Cessna to inspect 200 miles pipeline. This can not only be costly but also time consuming in operations. Unmanned Aerial Systems are being developed specifically for these operations that will be lower in acquisition, maintenance, and costs for the usage of inspections of these areas. The oil and gas research center granted $125,000 for testing of UAS for over 18,000 miles of pipeline.

SkySpecs, an unmanned systems company, is targeting infrastructure such as wind turbines, bridges, building exteriors, power lines and sewers. North Dakota State University is currently working on obtaining a COA from the FAA. This will enable them to perform testing and operations under the approval of the FAA in order to maintain UAS regulations. The testing phase is expected to run 18 months and have multiple UAS sites across the pipeline system for certain sections of the pipeline.

Estimated costs saving per wind turbine tower will be up to $1,400 estimated. It takes 4 hours for an inspector to climb to the top of a tower and stop a propeller one by one and rappel down the turbine in order to inspect the prop. With a multicopter it is expected to save time reduction by one hour and only cost $100 for the entire inspection process per turbine. In turn saving hundreds of thousands for turbine fields per inspectional season for the energy production industry.

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James McDanolds

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