Natural gas leaked out of a PG&E pipeline in San Bruno, CA, killing an unknown number. Clearly the Buried Natural Gas infrastructure is beginning to age. Only UAV's can reasonably fly low enough in neighborhoods to create a map of NG concentration. I heard on NPR that PG&E flies airplanes to inspect gaslines, but clearly not low or often enough.

Given that Methane sensors are light, cheap and readily available:


It's conceivable that Amateur UAV's could fly a pattern and log Methane levels against a GPS coordinate.

(Does anyone else think this could be a viable task for UAVs? and Why not propose a T3 contest in which mapping methane is the objective?)

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  • Could a $5 Sensor and a UAV have prevented the San Bruno Explosion? . . . the 30 inch (75 cm) gas pipeline was built in 1956. Houston, we have a bigger problem.
  • Developer
    According to interviewed locals on rather many news broadcasts what I have seen, i doubt that sensors would not make any difference. People reported to local authorities like 3 weeks earlier about this gas smell and they continued to report but for some unknown reason nothing happened until it was too late.. It sounds a bit like what happened on Asian Tsunami at 2004. They knew that it's coming but no one did nothing.

    But idea to have gas sniffing UAV's is great. In future there will be a lot different applications that these can be used.
  • @ Jack Crossfire
    no they dont send robots into the pipline that exploded on msn they had an article that said the pipeline was to "curvy" to send those rovers into it

    @ Keegan
    also dont forget this pipline goes under crowded neighberhoods so maintaining a network of stationd methane sensors would be a complicated task to maintain
  • Installing the sensors near the pipe may require significant ammounts of man power. Support infrastructure taken in to consideration: I can see how a cheap UAV could save money on patrolling these gas lines. It's much cheaper if they're autonomous, but I'm not sure if people are confortable with autonomous UAVs flying patrols over residential neighborhoods for safety reasons.
  • - Sept. 2010, United States monitors entire southern border with drones.

    yes, back to topic .... cellular methane sensors
  • re: state surveillance and control

    - mid-2007, UK police monitor rock fans for enforcement of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders;
    - early 2008, German police UAVs used for the surveillance of alleged hooligans in urban areas;
    - February 2008, UAVs support the police in Netherlands evictions;
    - June 2008, surveillance of football fans during the European football championship;
    - April 2009, used at NATO summit to intercept "troublemakers" at French borders;
    - UAVs used to target undocumented workers and migrants in Belgium, France and Italy;
    - Austria controls its eastern borders with drones.
  • Back to the original topic wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to just have hundreds of small wireless methane sensors all along the gas line. I mean I don't think this would be a very good area of use for uavs.
  • "The insidious impact of a surveillance state isn't the increase in enforcement. It's the chilling effect on free speech."

    Somewhere along in the editing process that came out way more matter of factly than intended. The point you make about enforcement is insightful. The amount of cameras in the UK kind of demonstrates your point as it's by no means a crime free utopia.
  • Pretty sure PG&E already sends robots into the pipes. The extremely heavy rain we'd had since 2006, settling soil, & declining standard of living were all a factor.
  • bGatti,

    The insidious impact of a surveillance state isn't the increase in enforcement. It's the chilling effect on free speech.

    But I agree: this isn't the last outpost to oblivion. You can't address cultural problems like a lack of appreciation for privacy by hindering technology. The problem may even be self-correcting as abuses are generally checked as part of the process of moving forward.
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