Next-gen UAVs for offshore inspections


The drones each use a different sensor to paint a more complete picture of operations. The devices’ makers hope to significantly reduce the time and costs related to the inspection of offshore oil and gas facilities.

Air Control Entech (ACE) has developed three drones to assess offshore sites more efficiently. The drones use live video streaming, ultrasonic testing and 3D laser scanning respectively to gather data and send it to operators in real time.

The Oil & Gas Technology Centre, which supports innovation in the oil and gas industry with funding and technical assistance, says that the UAVs can reduce inspection costs by up to 50%.

ACE specifically designed the drones for their function in the oil and gas industry, developing them in conjunction with industry partners. The company has already organised trials with ‘a number of major operators’ at North Sea facilities, with feedback being used to improve design and functionality.

The first drone uses a live stream is meant to reduce the size of inspection teams and speed up the reporting time by providing high-definition video and data transfer.

By using electromagnets to clamp onto a structure, the second drone takes ultrasonic readings of a structure, detecting the thickness of the metal. This allows it to reduce power consumption and increase flight time.

3D laser scanning allows the third drone to scan offshore facilities to an accuracy of 2mm, “significantly improving the accuracy of re-engineering projects by obtaining point cloud data from inaccessible locations,” says The Oil & Gas Technology Centre.

ACE’s next project is a drone made to operate in confined spaces, as well as conducting general research into flight control systems and battery technology.