As petroleum has become harder to find, it's become increasingly costly and dangerous to extract. Could aerial data-collection bots create a new boom in fossil fuels?
Oil and gas exploration has always moved at the speed of the equipment—glacially. Productive job sites quickly get clogged with fleets of massive trucks, cranes, and rotary diggers, forcing site planners to observe the area by helicopter just to direct traffic.
For decades, this has been the only way to do business. And it’s pricey. Drilling machinery burns thousands of dollars per day in operation, and nearly as much when it sits idle. When conditions change—weather, markets, breakdowns—teams suffer a chain reaction of runaway costs only the biggest conglomerates can afford.
With such massive overhead acting as a barrier to entry, oil and gas companies have been slow to innovate around worker safety and environmental impact. But aerial drones threaten to drastically change the pace. Are American oil companies ready?
Self-piloting drones like the Boomerang are leading a small but fundamental change in the industry. In oil and gas, equipment doesn’t move without data—where to drill, how deep to go, and so on. With the traffic bottleneck removed, suddenly equipment can move more nimbly and exploration startups can get in the drilling game for a fraction of the traditional entry cost.
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