Aerial Data: The What, Why, and How for Actionable Solutions Posted on March 8, 2023 Image Source: Unsplash Midstream oil and gas companies must monitor pipeline integrity to optimize output. Aerial data offers the most innovative solution for this purpose. As the global economy continues to use more energy, the oil and gas industry will continue meeting this need. However, these companies face a number of pressures requiring innovation. Aerial data is emerging as an exciting new solution to many of the challenges ahead. For instance, large oil deposits within reach are on the decline, and the new deposits being found are in remote locations such as the desert and the arctic. At the same time, many workers are nearing retirement, and a new generation of workers faces hurdles in gaining expertise. Plus, production remains dangerous for both workers and the environment. Finally, securing and maintaining pipelines affordably and efficiently is a continuous challenge. Technologies addressing these issues include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also called drones. These systems fly above the earth recording aerial imagery, which becomes actionable data. You can therefore monitor and inspect sites remotely, alleviating the skills shortage and the challenges of harsh terrains. UAVs have been used in various industries such as agriculture and construction. Now, pipeline monitoring for midstream oil and gas companies is gaining popularity with solutions from SkyX. Additional verticals will also increasingly turn to aerial data for its powerful ability to see what other approaches can’t. Image Source: Shutterstock Aerial Data Is Just One Piece of the Puzzle Aerial data complements data from other sources. For instance, some companies use pipeline sensors to gather data for maintenance. However, you can only see so much from a pipeline—it doesn’t give you a complete picture. To see what’s not in that data, you need a bird’s-eye view. A holistic approach to monitoring oil and gas infrastructure with UAVs protects your employees and your bottom line, but it also helps protect the planet. For instance, an oil spill can pollute entire ecosystems and expose nearby residents to toxins. Therefore, preventing spills is critical to keeping the land clean. What Is Actionable Aerial Data? Actionable aerial data is information taken from the sky that enables smart pipeline maintenance and risk prevention. Instead of only reacting to events on the ground, you can take proactive measures thanks to aerial photography. The big picture gives you advance notice of leaks and other hazards. Essentially, with actionable aerial data, information is processed into a useful format. You can pinpoint each visual element in the system to identify anomalies. Then, it’s easy to send the right personnel to the specific location of the trouble, rather than surveying large areas manually. How It Works SkyX long-range drones fly over the land with an array of high-tech sensors. Each flight is precisely controlled to collect actionable data. The technical term for making measurements from sky-based images is ‘aerial photogrammetry.’ Once recorded, the aerial data must be processed. Machine learning algorithms simplify the analysis of data, pulling patterns from the noise. Next, predictive analytics models the pipelines to deliver statistical estimates of risk. The system calculates future probabilities based on past evidence. Then, the system produces an initial data set covering your pipelines and rights of way. Regular flights capture updates from the same height and angle. With more aerial data, the insights improve automatically. You can see even the slightest of changes. Why Do You Need Actionable Aerial Data? Actionable aerial data gives you a huge advantage in securing oil and gas pipelines because you’ll have the knowledge to prevent expensive disasters. Infrastructure costs a lot to build and maintain, so it’s important to protect. Sky data is the most efficient way to do so. For example, SkyX aerial data covers large parts of the earth’s surface with regular updates. It’s like having an extremely efficient inspection team. You can quickly see how the ground and vegetation are developing, as well as the impacts of human activity. Any leaks, cracks, corrosion, or other pipeline problems also become visible. Here are some other ways aerial data can benefit oil and gas companies: Protect Workers and Investments Fundamentally, the insights of aerial data save businesses money and lives. Without access to UAV footage, inadequate monitoring results in thousands of incidents. A failure can cost millions or even billions of dollars in lost revenues and environmental cleanup, and it exposes workers to extremely unsafe conditions. By contrast, aerial data from SkyX systematically covers your pipelines with high-resolution imagery. You can then integrate it with other data in geographic information system (GIS) tools for a complete understanding of assets. Operations teams only need to go out into the field for specific situations, and they’re now armed with the most relevant information. Stop Issues Before They Start It’s a lot more efficient to find and fix problems before they explode. UAV data makes evidence-based forecasts to predict issues ahead of time, rendering regular roll-outs unnecessary. Aerial data is simply a smarter way to track pipelines. Unlike conventional tools that only offer sparse and expensive data, SkyX provides a consistent stream of reliable data. You can therefore make decisions more confidently, which translates into more cost-effective maintenance and incident prevention. Given the immense financial and ecological impact of pipeline failures, as well as the risk to human life, it’s critical to use actionable aerial data. This is the most innovative and effective means of ensuring the security of oil and gas pipeline infrastructure. Image Source: Shutterstock How to Use Aerial Data To take advantage of aerial data, you should work with a partner with proven expertise. After all, operating a fleet of drones is no easy task, plus there are maintenance and compliance challenges. SkyX already manages these tasks and can make the most innovative UAV imagery available for your pipelines. Using a ready-made solution is affordable, and you know you’ll see results. Just describe your needs, and the solution will include everything from the drones themselves to processing image data with AI, along with a convenient interface for the output. You’ll find numerous uses for aerial data, including: Checking Asset Integrity You can specify where you want to inspect pipelines, and the UAVs will fly over those areas to record data. The software analyzes the imagery to extract locations of concern. You can then examine the changes detected by the system, which older technologies wouldn’t notice. For example, you could instantly see that a crack has started in the ground, threatening a pipeline. The aerial data can also be exported into your GIS or other systems for further use. Supporting Existing Data SkyX’s aerial data complements the other data you may already collect on pipelines to provide a comprehensive assessment of their integrity. For instance, you may have various gauges and sensors on the ground or in manned airplanes, but all these lack the detailed regularity of UAV imagery. Detecting Threats With modern sensors, a UAV can take sharp images in human-visible color or in infrared. This offers superior identification of oil spills, gas leaks, or other anomalies. And unlike other techniques, the frequent scans of each area can detect illicit human interference in or near pipelines such as excavations and thefts. You can also track and manage plant growth near pipelines. The computer-aided change detection will alert you when there’s excessive plant matter near assets so you can clear the area. Access Aerial Data With SkyX Until now, oil and gas companies have used manual methods and various technologies to monitor asset integrity. But with more than 2 million kilometers of pipeline worldwide and growing, manual methods can’t keep up. Ground-based sensors don’t tell the whole story and have reliability limitations, while manned aircraft or helicopters cost a fortune. Aging pipelines also pose a growing risk, so it’s time to deploy the latest solutions to tackle the problem. Aerial data is revolutionizing the oil and gas industry’s ability to protect pipelines. However, it’s difficult to collect and process data without the right tools. SkyX produces leading-edge UAVs and artificial intelligence to monitor your pipelines efficiently. The drones-as-a-service model means you don’t have to maintain or pilot the vehicles. Plus, you decide when you need aerial data and how much. SkyX also handles all regulatory requirements. UAVs make pipeline assessment fast, safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly. With this tech, you can see the status of kilometers of pipeline and right-of-way without the hassle. You can also detect threats such as potential theft or invasive plant life. Even better, the big data arising from UAV flights can be integrated into the latest machine-learning techniques to automate analysis. Fast-track inspections with SkyX drones. You’ll see more accurate information and predictive insights that indicate which pipelines need repairs or replacement. Contact SkyX now for a demo to see the incredible benefits of aerial data.