Drones Could Help Monitor Methane from Fracking

March 6, 2015

Inside a former bowling alley in Pittsburgh, the future of environmental protection could be taking flight. It’s 3.5 pounds of technology and it’s whipping around a vacant floor above a robotics lab.

“We can fly up to 40 miles an hour,” says Dick Zhang, the founder and CEO of Identified Technologies, a startup making drones for use in the oil and gas industry.

Zhang is showing off what he’s calling the ‘Boomerang’—basically a tiny, four-propeller helicopter programmed to return to a docking station. It’s rigged with several devices tucked inside a small carbon fiber body. It’s got a camera, an ‘optical flow’ sensor—the same technology a computer mouse uses to track its movement—and an ultrasound sensor.

“The ultrasound is basically a proximity sensor—'I'm close to the ground—I’m not close to the ground,'" Zhang says.

Zhang has already leased several units to oil and gas companies in the Marcellus Shale region. Right now, they’re using the flying bots to map and survey their sites.

The drones could also be outfitted with other sensors—ones that could detect plumes of harmful chemicals seeping out of oil and gas operations. That represents a growth opportunity, Zhang says.

“There’s a huge opportunity to get into methane detection,” Zhang says.

Full article here Environmental Monitoring

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Comment by Guy Compton on March 10, 2015 at 3:01pm

My cousin invented a camera that detects leaks.  Larger scale but same idea.  Hopefully he will get around to making them UAV size.

Leak Detection Thermal

Comment by Dave Giles on March 10, 2015 at 3:24pm

“The ultrasound is basically a proximity sensor—'I'm close to the ground—I’m not close to the ground,'"

"The drones could also be outfitted with other sensors—"

Well, since we're talking methane here... perhaps a bovine sensor should be included? 

'I'm close to the cow—I’m not close to the cow.'"

Drone, drone on the range:


Comment by Quadzimodo on March 10, 2015 at 3:57pm
Great idea!

Fixed wing would seem to be a much better platform for this sort of work for a number of reasons.
Comment by Thomas Donalek on March 13, 2015 at 10:44am

yeah - I'm inferring (guessing?) that they want to survey fairly large areas, where longer flight times and the ability to cover more ground would make fixed-wing better than a multi-rotor.  Unless maybe they're inspecting hard to access equipment/towers and the like?


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