Getting the right information, into the right hands, in a timely manner, is a crucial aspect of oil and gas exploration and production, especially in harsh conditions. Many of the survey and surveillance jobs, including geological exploration, critical infrastructure inspection, pipeline monitoring, ice condition study and wildlife and other forms of environmental surveys can be dull, dirty and dangerous. These are well suited to robotic aviation.
Information today is gleaned from a variety of sources such as installed monitors, terrestrial patrols, fixed and rotary wing aircraft and satellites. Managing the significant issues of cost, risk, safety, flexibility and responsiveness, let alone the disparate nature of the data sets received, is a daily challenge.
Effective use of robotic aviation has the potential to greatly improve the situation. A robotic aircraft system that incorporates the airframe, sensor package and data fusion plan is a powerful tool. The quality of the data that can be gathered quickly, and in both a proactive and/or reactive manner has to be seen to be believed. What is even more significant is the huge reduction in footprint in terms of cost, risk and in the requirements for space, fuel and personnel. For example, the fuel required for a fixed wing robotic aircraft is less than one litre per hour, carrying similar or better sensors than a helicopter or light plane.
ING Robotic Aviation developed its expertise with the Canadian Army in Afghanistan, and to this day retains a team deployed with the Royal Canadian Navy in the Indian Ocean. Experienced gleaned from military operations is already proving to be useful in the civil sphere, for example in conducting flare stack inspections for Irving Oil and wildlife counts that can be conducted accurately and unobtrusively.