Introducing SkyVision 2.0: Solving the pipeline integrity challenges of today (and tomorrow)

The global Oil and Gas industry is faced with significant and sometimes costly pipeline integrity challenges. SkyVision 2.0 was designed to help solve them.
SkyVision 2.0, pipeline integrity, drone software, SkyX Systems

Less than one year ago, we set out on a mission to develop an enhanced version of our SkyVision system. Today, we’re proud to announce the launch of SkyVision 2.0, our most advanced aerial data software yet.

Growing concerns about aging assets, risks of leaks and ruptures, safety and environmental issues, and in some cases, gas theft are rising around the globe, prompting Oil and Gas companies to seek streamlined solutions to better understand what’s happening along their pipelines.

The challenge for Oil and Gas companies is, how do they effectively monitor the health of their pipelines on an ongoing basis? It’s no longer sufficient, cost-effective, or environmentally conscious to fly a plane over a pipeline once a month, take a few photos, and check a box.

Today, Oil and Gas companies need to be collecting high-quality aerial images on an ongoing basis to audit and analyze their pipelines and identify areas of interest that can be monitored over time.

These realities, combined with our vision of becoming the leading aerial data solution for infrastructure asset companies, prompted us to make a substantial investment in reimagining our new SkyVision 2.0 software.

The SkyVision 2.0 experience provides customers with a secure, enterprise-level system to view, prioritize, track and take action on areas of interest along a pipeline that inspection methods can’t detect, like leaks, cracks, vegetation encroachment, unauthorized activity, and more.

From our OG SkyVision software to SkyVision 2.0

Our original SkyVision system was designed for our team to plan flights, upload significant quantities of large, high-resolution aerial images collected by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) during pipeline monitoring missions and annotate images with areas of interest for customers to take action on.

Our core technology enables us to collect and manage an incredibly large amount of actionable data, especially when we have multiple flights happening in different geographical locations for different customers simultaneously.

Based on a sample of recent data collection for our Oil and Gas partners, we determined that we capture approximately 12 images per minute of flight. For a single 90 minute flight, that would be more than 1,000 images.

“The drone is just a tool to capture data. What’s most important are the insights – actionable, meaningful insights. You can have all the drones in the world taking pictures, but if you’re not actually delivering insights back to your customer, you’re not delivering value.”

Uploading, processing, categorizing, analyzing, and converting this huge amount of data into a format that can easily be analyzed, understood, and actioned by the customer requires a very robust, purpose-built system that can scale with us and our customers.

In addition to the features and functionality of the original SkyVision, SkyVision 2.0 also offers an enhanced User Interface (UI), increased automation, additional workflows, and most importantly, we’ve invited customers into the system. Now, customers can log in to the easy-to-use portal to view their flight images, prioritize issues, monitor changes over time, and export data for use in their GIS or other data systems.

Benefits of SkyVision 2.0

  • Monitor assets that span large areas of terrain in a systematic way
  • View high-resolution images of areas of interest and adverse conditions along a pipeline
  • Capture, process, and store large quantities of high-resolution aerial images (10X the resolution of satellite images)
  • Detect anomalies and changes over time along a pipeline using computer vision technology
  • Zero in on areas identified as potential concerns and use high-quality images to detect changes over time
  • Proactively identify and address issues along a pipeline before they become significant problems
  • Ensure aerial data is always secure using Enterprise-grade multi-tenant SaaS
  • Integrate insights from SkyVision into GIS systems

Driven by customer and industry insights

We started the research and planning for SkyVision 2.0 in October 2020 by interviewing customers, team members, and Oil and Gas industry professionals, seeking answers to the following questions:

  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • What problem are we trying to solve for our customers?
  • Who are our customers?
  • What do we absolutely need in order to deliver insights to customers and to be able to scale?

Following these conversations, we concluded that there are two primary challenges that Oil and Gas companies face today.

1. Managing pipeline integrity

Aging pipelines are prone to ruptures causing releases of oil or gas due to adverse conditions such as corrosion and shifting terrain.

2. Detecting oil and gas theft

Millions of dollars of oil and gas are lost every day around the world due to theft through illegal taps into oil and gas pipelines.

The message was very clear: Oil and Gas companies need a better way to understand the health of their pipelines and detect and monitor changes over time.

“We already had an existing product and a good idea of what we needed to build. These conversations really confirmed that we were on the right path,” says Jamie.

Starting with a solid foundation

Our strategy was to start by developing the foundation of a very flexible, secure, scalable platform. Then, we prioritized building the features and functionality that add the most value to our customers first. This approach gives the customer value sooner and allows us to build and deliver features more quickly in the future.

“In order to be able to scale to handle multiple flights in various geographies every week and quickly provide actionable insights to customers, we needed to focus on building a solid foundation first,” said Jamie.

We chose to use a microservice architecture where we broke the big system into small microservices that handle different aspects of the system. Because of this, we were able to develop services independently and then integrate them into each other. This made our development process quicker and easier because each team member could make progress without stepping on each other’s toes.

Strong leadership, excellent work ethics, and positive attitudes on the engineering team were significant factors in the on-time delivery of the SkyVision 2.0 Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

“Having a good pre-development process was crucial. We knew exactly what we’re going to build and the MVP priorities were well-defined. The biggest accomplishment is that we met the timeline with a stable working system that does what it is meant to do without taking shortcuts,” said David Caspher, CTO, SkyX.

Using an Agile software development process

Every two weeks, we have what’s called sprint planning where we look at what’s coming up and prioritize. Use a system called JIRA, which breaks things down into stories, which are small units of capabilities that deliver value to a user.

For example, as a customer, I want to be able to export the data from the system and import it into my GIS system. That’s a story. It would sit on the backlog and we would look at the backlog and make decisions and prioritize which things we should incorporate into the next sprint. It’s a constant process and a balance between engineering and product.

“Using Agile methodology allowed us to identify problems and setbacks early and make adjustments to stay on track,” said David.

What’s next for SkyVision 2.0?

Launching is just the beginning. How is the market going to respond? How is it going to work in a real-life scenario?

We’re actively collecting feedback from customers and using this feedback to inform our development roadmap. We continue to work on refinements, UI and User Experience (UX) enhancements, and adding more capabilities to the system while continuing to the next phase of the product roadmap.

Longer-term, we’ll be exploring how we can apply and adapt the SkyVision 2.0 system to other industries.

“There are so many analogous needs in adjacent industries, whether it’s powerlines or rail lines, basically any industry where there are large infrastructure assets that span large geographical areas that need to be constantly monitored. I believe there’s space for us in those industries,” says Jamie.

Learn more about SkyX at skyx.com.