Four Insightful Takeaways from the Energy Drone & Robotics Summit 2021

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the 5th Annual Energy Drone & Robotics Summit in Houston, Texas. This Summit is the largest global summit of the Energy Drone & Robotics Coalition, which hosts the only event series exclusively focused on the business and technology of unmanned systems, automation and data/AI in energy operations. 

I thought I’d share four particular takeaways from the Energy Drone & Robotics Summit.

1. Methane detection is a high priority for the Oil and Gas industry

Methane was a common theme at the conference. Specifically, the importance of methane detection. There are wellheads that are spitting out twice the amount of waste methane as they’re catching and delivering. It’s not good. Which is one of the many reasons that there is a lot of focus on methane detection solutions in the Oil and Gas industry right now.

I learned at the conference that there are cameras coming out that can detect methane in images. Meaning you can actually see a cloud of methane in an image. One of the benefits of this technology is that, in theory, if you equip an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with these cameras, you could fly over a pipeline and get a pretty good understanding of whether methane is present and how much. Basically, vehicles wouldn’t have to get as close to the asset in order to detect methane. This has many benefits in terms of costs, safety, the impact on the environment, and provides detailed information for companies in the Oil and Gas industry.

2. Together, we can contribute to emissions reduction

What was interesting to me was the fact that there are so many companies out there, all with unique technologies and solutions that, when combined, have the incredible power to help solve this methane detection challenge. 

There was the company with the methane camera I mentioned earlier. A company with a gimbal to mount the camera on. A number of companies with different drones to mount the gimbal and camera on. And companies, like SkyX, with the operational excellence and consistency to execute complex pipeline monitoring missions using cutting-edge drone and imaging technology.

Bringing all these solutions together could have a huge impact on emissions reduction, contributing to the worldwide goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

3. Oil and Gas companies recognize they’re missing valuable data from the sky

Through a number of conversations I had with professionals from Oil and Gas companies and technology suppliers to these companies, it became clear to me that the Oil and Gas industry is beginning to understand that there’s a new layer of data that they need to be taking advantage of.

They have plenty of data from inside their pipelines but they don’t have systematic, actionable data from above. What we do at SkyX is provide a layer of data from the sky that Oil and Gas companies can marry with pigging data and other sources of data so that they really understand what’s going on with the asset in more depth. That’s the layer they’re missing and that layer is imperative for protecting their assets and the environment. 

One thing is clear, the Oil and Gas industry is going through a digital transformation and they’re optimistic about the technology and capabilities to capture and analyze the data available to them today.

4. Drones, robots, and building digital twins are not just cool, they are the future

As I walked the exhibit hall, I was amazed to see so many different types of drones and robots built from different types of materials for different specific purposes. There was definitely a lot of hype and cool-factor. It was really interesting to see how vast the drone ecosystem is specifically for the Oil and Gas industry and the different ways to capture critical data. 

I also sat in on a presentation about digital twin technology. It felt like something out of a sci-fi movie. But it’s real. Digital twin technology came out of GE years ago to model their motors and to see what was going on with them. Oil and Gas have started using it too, building digital twins of entire assets. Aerial technology will be more prevalent in the future with drones will be a big part of that data collection and analysis.

This is just a small portion of the knowledge I gained at the Energy Drone & Robotics Summit. Overall, the energy and excitement at the Summit were incredible. From the really cool robots and drones that I got to experience, and the great connections I made with people from drone and Oil and Gas companies, to the interesting presentations, it was a 10 out of 10 experience.

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