What is the role of drones in the oil and gas industry?

In recent years, UAVs have seen various big shows and cruise inspections at night shows. It can be said that UAVs are everywhere. What can drones do in the traditional oil and gas industry? According to data from the data analysis company GlobalData, the latest advances in sensing and imaging technology can prompt drones to flex their muscles in various environments in the oil and gas industry.

1. Application Trend

Based on the characteristics of drones and the status quo of the oil and gas industry, the following application trends have been found:

Remote monitoring

UAVs are mainly used in the oil and gas industry to monitor infrastructure, equipment, tankers, and trucks remotely. UAVs can provide a 360° viewing angle to monitor on-site operations and observe the progress of facilities under construction. You can also check the unmanned production platform.

Inspection and predictive maintenance

UAVs can be customized to include ultrasonic sensors and visual inspection technologies, such as cameras and thermal imagers, to find defects through close non-destructive inspections of oil and gas assets. Facts have proved that this method effectively evaluates pipelines, outer surfaces, and subsurfaces of storage tanks and ships.

Combining drone data with advanced data analysis allows companies to predict the health of equipment and predict potential failures.

Methane management

In recent years, oil and gas companies have been committed to reducing methane emissions during operations to support the global response to climate change and global warming. Companies are investing in various sensing technologies, which can be permanently installed on target assets or on drones to obtain real-time data.

Equinor, the Norwegian national oil and gas company, is investing in a research project to develop laser sensors for detecting methane leaks.

Emergency Response

In industrial accidents or natural disasters, drones can have a bird' eye view of developments. Real-time drone image and video analysis can help map oil spills or fire accidents. It allows the company to coordinate emergency response and natural resources to the right place while ensuring personnel safety.

Material handling

Technology companies worldwide are testing the reliability of drones to deliver visual line of sight (VLOS) and super visible line of sight (BVLOS) products. UAVs can also be used in the oil and gas field to transport payloads to nearby production platforms.

Although restrictions on the size and weight of the payload may limit the availability of drones in this situation, it can be seen as an option for delivering smaller objects.


02. Application layout of significant companies

According to data from the data analysis company GlobalData, drone manufacturers are working with oil and gas companies to develop customized drones with data collection technology to obtain real-time information.

British oil giant BP was one of the first companies to adopt drones. In 2006, it conducted a pilot study in an oil field in Alaska. These studies assess the effectiveness of drones in monitoring the condition of gravel roads and help ensure that trucks supplying oilfield equipment move safely and efficiently.

The leading companies currently using drones in the oil and gas industry include:

British Petroleum

In 2013, British Petroleum (BP) cooperated with AeroVironment to expand drones in the United States. It became the first oil and gas company in the United States to obtain a commercial drone operation license. BP has deployed drones, tracked vehicles, and other robotic technologies to perform high-risk operations in their operational areas.

Chevron Corporation

Chevron is using the aerial data collection capabilities of drones to improve oilfield safety and productivity. It applies AR technology to drones to evaluate field equipment and infrastructure during inspection and monitoring operations. Chevron is also experimenting with drones in industrial accidents, primarily to assist in handling oil spills.


ConocoPhillips uses drones to inspect and monitor its assets worldwide, including the United States, North Sea, and Australia. In the Judi Oilfield in the North Sea, the company deployed drones to inspect unmanned offshore production platforms. The company also uses drones to inspect the appearance of tankers and cargo storage defects, reducing overall inspection time by approximately 75%.


Equinor is investing in a series of emerging technologies, trying to use digitalization to transform its business. It participates in developing robotics and drone technology to take advantage of their mobility in factory facilities, which seem unattainable to field technicians.
Equinor's use of drones is expected to increase because it will start automating oilfield operations in the North Sea to achieve an unmanned, or even fully autonomous, production platform.

Exxon Mobil

Since 2012, the development of drone technology has been an essential agenda for ExxonMobil. The company supports the development of unmanned aerial vehicles because they improve operational safety while also helping to increase efficiency. ExxonMobil has deployed drones for aerial surveillance and inspections in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The company's primary targets are offshore platforms and oil refining and petrochemical facilities.


Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom is conducting extensive trials to evaluate the performance of drones to monitor and monitor its assets in icy conditions. The company's goal is to develop drones to facilitate fast, safe, and reliable data collection at a lower cost. Gazprom also intends to use drone technology to explore oil and gas resources in Siberia.


Shell has been using drones from Aeryon Laboratories to conduct torch stack inspections of its facilities. The company is also conducting pilot studies at the Houston Technology Center. Shell intends to evaluate the ability of drones to perform asset inspections using different sensor equipment and drone technology combinations.

The low cost, convenient transportation, simple operation, and simple maintenance of drones have promoted their wide application in the oil and gas industry. With the development of technology, drones will improve their capabilities to complete autonomous data collection tasks, make decisions, and process business independently, which will surely bring significant economic and social benefits to the oil and gas industry.

Article source http://www.cnenergynews.cn/