Uncovering New Insights in Your GIS With Aerial Data

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For nearly two decades, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been a core component of pipeline integrity management. GIS applications provide a highly-visual, map-based interface that operators use to analyze information from a multitude of sources in a single platform.

Even with these open, powerful tools for data analysis, midstream operators are still struggling to get a clear understanding of what’s happening in their pipeline. Simply put: having a powerful GIS platform in place isn’t enough. Actionable insights can only be driven by high-quality data and if you’re leaving aerial data out of the equation in your GIS, you’ll continue to struggle with an incomplete view of the ins-and-outs of your infrastructure.

With the right aerial data at your fingertips, you can make faster, better, more accurate decisions.

Traditional Pipeline Inspection Leaves You Playing Catch-Up

The biggest challenge we hear from pipeline operators is trying to get ahead of the game. In other words, to access predictive analytics that allow you to discover, quantify, and predict trends and patterns, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where do I need to focus my resources to prevent incidents on my pipeline?
  • Are my decisions based on up-to-date and complete information?
  • How can I equip my maintenance crews with the intel they need to effectively and safely respond to issues?

Currently, pipeline operators leverage sensor technologies – SCADA systems, PIGs, and fiber optics – along with visual inspections such as ground walks or helicopter inspections in an effort to develop a holistic view of their asset in a GIS application. Piecing together all these data points in a meaningful way can be complex without common, unifying details like timestamps or geo-reference tags.

Sensor technologies provide alerts that can lack detail on the exact location of a problem and make it hard to determine what pattern has led to this issue. Meanwhile, traditional methods for visual inspection tend to provide piecemeal points of data, which are usually collected during investigation of a specifically-detected issue or captured at the discretion of the inspector.

Sensor technologies are here to stay, they play a vital role in leak detection and monitoring the internal health of an asset. However, operators can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their decision-making when they have the right data in their GIS. Let’s examine how drones can fill the gaps in the traditional workflow with high-quality visual data.

Aerial Inspection with Drones can Get You Ahead of Issues

When it comes to high-quality visual data, drones are an effective means-to-an-end that provide the building blocks you need to develop predictive analytics within your GIS. Here are two key advantages that autonomous, unmanned aerial systems have over traditional visual inspection methods:

  • High-Quality Imagery for High-Quality Analysis: Drones are gathering some of the most detailed, high-resolution imagery ever seen in pipeline monitoring applications. Many GIS managers are used to working with ½ – 1 ½ foot resolution imagery, but using an unmanned aerial system equipped with the right camera they can get imagery with detail down to the inch. This is important, because this high-resolution imagery allows for detection of subtle changes during analysis.
  • Consistent Inspections for Consistent Datasets: Quality imagery is a big plus, but the consistency of drone inspection is the real secret sauce of getting the right data for predictive analytics. Especially useful in long-range inspection applications, a drone can follow a programmable flight-path that is repeatable for every deployment. From inspection-to-inspection, the drone is gathering imagery from the same angle and coordinates every time, allowing you to effectively compare historical datasets to identify trends and patterns.

With these two improvements – high-resolution imagery and consistent data – advanced aerial systems performing routine flights and data collection on an ongoing basis provide the quality and quantity of datasets needed to do predictive analytics, notifying operators of emerging trends and potential problems before they happen. By getting the right data, you’re enhancing the quality of analysis you’re able to achieve within your GIS.

Prepare Your Maintenance Crews with Rapid Response Drone Intel

Not only do drones provide the building blocks to start being predictive with your maintenance efforts, they also enable you to address any urgent issues that arise in a smarter way. Maintenance crews in midstream industries – such as pipelines or power transmission lines – expose themselves to risk every time they head into the field to do their work. Every company is eager to create as safe an environment as possible for staff to do their jobs. By equipping your crew with intel ahead of time, they can respond quickly, effectively, and safely to urgent issues.

For example, in a pipeline monitoring scenario, an Asset Integrity Manager can:

1. Receive an alert from a SCADA sensor
2. Deploy the aerial system for rapid inspection of the affected segment
3. Get a picklist of detected anomalies along the route
4. Schedule the maintenance crew
5. Provide the crew with a brief of the job including images of the anomaly, classification, and the specific coordinates of the issue.

High-Quality Aerial Data Doesn’t Have to Uproot Your Workflow

Parsing this raw information, identifying the key data points, and getting this data into your GIS doesn’t have to be difficult, at SkyX, we’ve developed a turnkey data acquisition solution to make the process as smooth as possible for your entire staff. While our purpose-built aerial systems are certainly important to the process, there’s a lot of work that happens on the backend to get you the right data.

Leveraging machine-learning algorithms with a small degree of human verification, we can analyze the volumes of images collected during a mission and provide you with the key data points that are important in maintaining the integrity of your asset. To get this data smoothly integrated into your GIS, we can deliver it to you in an OTC-compliant format for import. When you work with an end-to-end service provider like SkyX, the only responsibility you have is to act on the data you’re receiving.

Performing routine inspections with advanced aerial systems can transform the level of insight you receive from your GIS application. Rather than spending time trying to piece together disparate and incomplete data, operators can use a robust set of visual data to get ahead of potential issues before they manifest. What’s more, with an autonomous system doing so much of the investigative work, crews can be sent with more information about critical alerts before they depart, allowing them to focus their efforts on the job at hand.

Your GIS is only as good as the data you put into it, so leverage drone technology to develop a thorough view of your asset and manage it accordingly.

Interested in making high-quality aerial data part of your GIS workflow?

Contact our team to discuss your specific needs and data requirements.