The Aerodyne Group, with its headquarters in Cyberjaya Malaysia, offers drone-based enterprise solutions that are DT3 (Drone Technology, Data Technology, and Digital Transformation).
By using AI and drone data, it addresses challenging industrial problems so that organizations can rapidly scale, undergo digital transformation, operate optimally, and boost productivity.
By 2021, Drone Industry Insights (DII) ranked Aerodyne Group as the world's top drone solution provider, and Frost & Sullivan named Aerodyne Group the Asia Pacific UAV Services Company of the year.
Related: Pipeline Inspections using Nested Drone Systems
It has become necessary to monitor the existing and potential pipeline right-of-ways, which span over 1630 miles, in order to identify encroachments. The two main issues with the current inspection method are as follows:
- Use of crewed aircrafts: Currently, the majority of Malaysian energy companies use helicopters to monitor encroachment in potential pipeline Right-Of-Ways (ROW). Each mission costs an average of $150,000 USD, making inspections more frequent than every six months practically impossible.
- Foot Patrols: Once the aircraft confirms an encroachment, foot patrols, typically consisting of two personnel, are dispatched to these remote locations. Such manual site inspections take approximately 8 hours and cost approximately $500 USD just to get a closer look and validate the threat.
To address these challenges, Aerodyne has recently launched the first-of-its-kind localized beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone project in Malaysia, called Aerodyne FULCRUM. The project employs a modular Nested Drone System (NDS) to transform the way these pipelines are inspected digitally. By implementing this system, Aerodyne intends to improve the safety, efficiency, and quality of data collection and analysis in the energy sector.
FULCRUM intends to use a combination of a Hextronics Atlas 300 docking station compatible with the DJI M300 RTK drone and FlytNow’s software solution to carry out these operations on such a large scale.
How it Works
The FlytNow software solution enables project managers to schedule pre-planned or on-demand flights from a command centre located miles away from the base station. The drone takes off from the Hextronics drone nest autonomously, flies its mission, captures real-time videos and images, and uploads them to the cloud.
Following the flight, the drone returns to the docking station for battery swapping and storage. The Hextronics Atlas station can charge up to four batteries simultaneously and swap out the existing battery in less than 90 seconds, ensuring minimal downtime. Furthermore, because it is lightweight, it can easily fit on the back of a pickup truck and be moved from one location to another if necessary.
How Aerodyne Plans to Deploy Drone Docks along the Pipeline
Owing to the complexity & the scale of the project, Aerodyne, leading the operations effort, has planned the deployment in phases. In the initial phase, Aerodyne will strategically locate thirteen units of FULCRUM systems at multiple sites in the control stations compound along the ROW. Each drone will collect data and monitor the encroachment for up to a five-mile radius around the nest, on a 24/7 basis.
Once phase 1 is successful and the value proposition is established, the following project stages will be put into action. Aerodyne anticipates beginning BVLOS operations up to 60 miles by September 2022. Long-range operations such as these will necessitate additional complexities, such as integration with onboard detect-and-avoid technology and a UAS traffic management system.
How did Aerodyne receive the BVLOS approval?
Special BVLOS authorisation was granted by the Civil Aviation Authorities of Malaysia (CAAM) in order to carry out these operations. The Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) is used in Malaysia. The JARUS SORA requires both ground and air risk assessment and related Specific Assurance and Integrity Levels (SAIL). Operational Safety Objectives (OSO) are then driven by these SAILs and must be met.
To reduce the risks on the ground, Aerodyne decided to fly over unpopulated areas and set up geo-fences around the pipeline ROWs. Additionally, each drone is equipped with a parachute to reduce ground risk. Notices to Air Missions (NOTAMs) are released during drone operations to lessen air risk. A centre for operations also communicates with air traffic control (ATC) through the radio and provides real-time flight telemetry data to ATC.
The BVLOS approval in this instance took months. It involved a formal application meeting after a pre-application meeting to submit a draft SORA plan to the CAAM. Prior to capability demonstrations, the last phase before approval, there were document reviews and evaluations of the SORA, the concept of operations, and risk mitigations.