Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are lightweight, low-cost aircraft platforms operated from the ground which can be outfitted with imaging or non-imaging payloads (‘drones’). UAS offer Health Environment and Safety (HES) professionals a promising opportunity to reduce health, environmental and safety risks by keeping people out of harm's way, reducing exposure to potential health hazards, and for performing non-invasive surveys of ecological features.
A certified operator and unit were retained in the field full-time to support a greenfield gas development in a rugged, remote area. Ready access to a UAS provided timely data to inform field decision making. "If in doubt, put the drone up" became a common phrase in the field, affirming the value of UAS imagery as an information-providing and risk-mitigating tool during site development. UAS collected the data and information that would have otherwise put people on aerial work platforms, in helicopters or on the ground in remote, rugged locations, avoiding thousands of safety-critical workforce hours.
UAS were employed to perform reconnaissance, monitoring and data collection for a wide range of HES applications:
Safety: reconnaissance of potential high-consequence situations (landslides, road washouts, avalanche assessment) and access to difficult locations (stack and powerline inspections, landfill slope stability assessment)
Environmental: non-invasive environmental monitoring of wildlife (raptor nests, large mammals) and environmental features (marine eelgrass, forest)
Health: hazardous materials (hazmat) surveys of legacy facilities to support decommissioning (asbestos-containing roofing materials)
In addition to enabling information-based decision-making in the field by providing real-time imagery, UAS visually conveyed information that was useful for communicating with stakeholders and regulators. This paper will demonstrate that onsite UAS can provide timely, cost-effective information and reduce HES risks in the field by replacing the human element for some safety-critical tasks.
Number of Pages
James Junda, Erick Greene, and David M. Bird. 2015. Proper flight technique for using a small rotary winged drone aircraft to safely, quickly, and accurately survey raptor nests. Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems, 2016, 4(4): 217-227. https://doi.org/10.1139/juvs-2016-0004.
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