flytbase (4)

As the world's primary fuel sources, oil and natural gas are major industries in the energy industry and have a significant impact on the global economy. Demand for petroleum and petroleum products has only increased in the recent past due to global economic and population growth, as well as continual urbanization and industrialization.


The United States itself has more than 190,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines and over 2.4 million miles of natural gas pipelines. Pipeline transportation is safer, more efficient, and emits fewer GHGs than shipping by ship, truck, or rail.

The Current Challenges with Pipeline Inspections:

Pipelines are vital infrastructure for the transmission of oil and natural gas, connecting producing areas to refineries, chemical plants, home customers, and commercial demands. However, oil and natural gas are combustible and explosive substances that are typically delivered via high-temperature, high-pressure pipeline networks. Hereby, it is critical to monitor these pipelines to ensure that they are operating effectively.


However, traditional pipeline inspection methods have some issues, such as:

Use of crewed aircraft

Currently, the majority of energy companies use helicopters to monitor encroachment in potential pipeline Right-Of-Ways (ROW). Each expedition costs an average of $150,000, making more regular inspections than every six months almost impractical.

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 merely to have a closer look and validate the threat.

conducting pipeline monitoring for oil and gas companies with manual methods
conducting pipeline monitoring for oil and gas companies with manual methods

Inability to send crew at all times

Pipelines can be hundreds of kilometers long and can be spread over vast remote locations. Sending operators to such locations can put human life at risk. Hereby, it becomes quite difficult to send inspection teams to cover such areas at all times. 

Time-consuming method

Traveling from one asset to another is frequently difficult. Operators may need to drive lengthy miles along gravel or dirt roads to visit several inspection sites. The distance and hard terrain may need a significant amount of time.

Drone program can help in conducting inspection for oil and gas companies without human intervention

How can Drones with BVLOS Capabilities Help Oil and Gas Companies Secure Pipelines 

Ease of travel between assets

Drone program can help in conducting inspection for oil and gas companies without human intervention
Drone program can help in conducting inspection for oil and gas companies without human intervention

Traveling between assets during inspection operations might become challenging because these pipes can span thousands of meters. The team may be required to travel long distances and to distant regions where there is no adequate road infrastructure.

Operators must travel to the sites, assess the asset, review their data, and then drive to another asset. Furthermore, they must repeat the entire process until all assets have been inspected. This can take a significant amount of time which can be costly for an industry like oil and gas.

However, drones can travel vast distances and reach difficult-to-access locations. Additionally, using drone-in-a-box systems, eliminate the need for continual re-launching, packing, and landing of drones which is majorly faced in manual-led VLOS operations.

Increase worker safety

Oftentimes, assets are located on high terrains or difficult-to-reach locations. Operators may need to set up substantial scaffolding or dangle from ropes to inspect this equipment. Any mistake here can result in severe consequences. Despite the industry's strict regulations and safety standards, health and safety concerns persist. A BVLOS operation eliminates the operator's danger by allowing them to undertake the flight mission from any remote location.

Simplify early detection of pipeline leaks

Example of leak in the gas pipeline is affecting the surrounding environment
Example of leak in the gas pipeline is affecting the surrounding environment

Drones are increasingly being used in the oil and gas industry for early detection of pipeline leaks. By using advanced drone technology including thermal cameras and visual or infrared cameras, these drones help the operators to identify gas leaks in storage tanks and pipelines with greater accuracy and efficiency than traditional methods.

These drones can easily access hard-to-reach areas and capture high-quality photos and videos of the pipelines and storage tanks. These data can be helpful to conduct image analytics for accurate and early detection of potential leaks or damage.

This allows operators to respond quickly and effectively to potential pipeline failure, minimizing the impact on the environment and reducing the risk of accidents. The use of drones also reduces the potential for human error, as operators can monitor the pipelines remotely, without the need for physical inspections.

Reduce heavy costs

Hiring a pilot and a helicopter, for example, can cost thousands of dollars. Regular inspections may become prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Autonomous drone missions can minimize such costs while also minimizing human dependency.

Utilize readymade data and analytics via automated procedures

A human-led operation requires the operator to drive to the location and visually inspect the asset. Via autonomous operations, drone operators can run pre-planned drone flights and augment the inspection process. The drone will follow its routine, capture and store data which can be further assessed for detailed inspection as per need.

This enables the operator to quantify their assessment with turnkey data and analytics delivered via automated workflows. This simplifies the entire process and backs it up with data, which greatly aids decision-making. 

Ability to scale operations

While examining pipelines spanning thousands of kilometers, it becomes nearly impossible to conduct manual operations consistently. However, autonomous drones can be scaled up and deployed readily to fit the business's needs as they can be programmed to conduct the desired tasks. 

How FlytNow is Enabling BVLOS Operations

BVLOS operations in pipeline inspection
BVLOS operations in pipeline inspection

FlytNow is a cloud-based solution that enables the deployment and management of drones in just a few clicks, allowing you to manage your drone operations via a single web-based dashboard for a seamless experience. It helps you lower travel costs, reduce operation rounds, and increase productivity by saving travel time. It is integrated with ready-to-use intelligent modules, like collision avoidance, and precision landing, and integration with drone-in-a-box systems, which further helps you shorten your time to market.

The FlytNow software solution enables project managers to schedule pre-planned or on-demand flights from a command center located miles away from the base station. The drone takes off from the drone nest autonomously, flies its mission, captures real-time videos and images, and uploads them to the cloud.

Store images and videos on cloud and Identify leaks on pipelines with FlytNow's solution
Store images and videos on cloud and Identify leaks on pipelines with FlytNow's solution

Following the flight, the drone returns to the docking station for battery swapping and storage. These stations 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.

3rd party integrations in FlytNow, such as Casia G system by Iris Automation for detection and avoidance of cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft, Altitude Angel for airspace awareness, and others, assist to increase capabilities for greater insights and seamless BVLOS operations.


Leveraging Nested Drone Systems (NDS)

How nested drone system helping in pipeline inspection
How nested drone system helping in pipeline inspection

The Nested Drone Systems (NDS) can significantly improve the data collection process and transform how pipelines are inspected. It lets the drone operator conduct long-duration flights without the need to return the drone to the command center to recharge or swap the battery. With the nested drone system, energy companies would be able to quickly scale up, undergo a digital transformation, run safely, and boost productivity.

Nitin Gupta, Founder & CEO of FlytBase, Inc. concludes by stating that “Nested Drone Solutions are rapidly revolutionizing the way repeatable, high-frequency missions are conducted across use-cases. Maintenance of pipelines, spread over thousands of miles, is a great application of this technology with a significant ROI for the end-user.

FAQs

1) How can drones improve the safety of inspections on oil and gas pipelines?

Drones can play a vital role in improving the safety of inspections in the oil and gas industry. With their ability to fly closer to the ground, drones can provide high-resolution aerial data through the use of visual or infrared cameras. This allows for more precise and thorough inspections of pipelines, particularly in hard-to-reach areas. 

By using drones, workers can avoid the potential dangers of inspecting pipelines on foot, such as exposure to crude oil leaks. Additionally, the use of drones allows for earlier detection of leaks, which can prevent potential disasters and safeguard the environment.

2) What are the benefits of using drones for pipeline inspections?

Drones provide several benefits for pipeline inspections, including accuracy and improved technologies. Using drones to detect leaks and identify potential issues can save costs and equipment compared to traditional inspection methods. Drones can also access dangerous terrain and provide quick emergency response. 

In addition, using drones for regular inspection can improve worker safety by avoiding the need for workers to enter hazardous areas. Visual or infrared cameras on drones can monitor pipelines and identify potential issues, whether it be for gas or oil pipelines. With better data and improved maintenance, major accidents can be avoided through the use of drones for pipeline inspections.

3) How can FlytNow help in pipeline inspection using drone-in-a-box systems?

Using FlytNow-powered drones for pipeline inspection, operators can now easily detect any leaks in the pipeline with greater accuracy and efficiency than traditional methods. It allows the team to access difficult-to-reach areas and avoid putting any human in potential danger.

Furthermore, operators can get a real-time video stream of the assets, and also capture high-quality photos and videos of the pipelines and storage tanks. This significantly helps in conducting accurate inspections and detecting potential leaks or damage.

4) What can we expect in upcoming technologies in oil and gas pipeline inspection?

New technologies will include autonomous drones that are packed with a cost-effective platform that will help in inspecting pipelines, provide insight for maintenance activities, and identify human errors. Moreover, they will be equipped with a visual or infrared camera that can detect leaks or damage on its own and inform the team immediately.

5) What are some of the best drones for pipeline inspections in the oil and gas industry?

There are several drones that are well-suited for use in pipeline inspections in the oil and gas industry. Some options include:

  1. DJI Phantom 4 RTK: This drone has a high-resolution camera and RTK GPS for precise mapping and surveying capabilities.
  2. DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual: This drone has a compact design and can fly in challenging weather conditions. It also has a dual thermal and visible light camera for identifying issues in pipelines.
  3. senseFly eBee X: This drone has a long flight time and can fly in autonomous missions to cover large areas quickly. It also has a high-resolution camera for detailed inspection.
  4. Parrot Anafi USA: This drone has a 4K HDR camera and is capable of flying in challenging environments. It is also lightweight and easy to transport.
Read more…

Drone-on-demand refers to a service that provides a drone solution for a specified time or perpetually to accomplish certain business objectives. Such services exist because we have reached a point where there is reliable, off-the-shelf hardware and software available to create enterprise-grade drone solutions.

Enterprises who avail such services see business value in the easy availability of aerial data at a reasonable price, which was not possible a few years ago. Apart from aerial intelligence, drone-based delivery is another segment that has seen a jump in demand in recent times.

Companies that operate drones have to abide by regulatory requirements, which include airspace norms that ensure security, safety, and privacy. While there remain challenges around technology (e.g. battery life, fail-safes), this commercial drone segment is quite lucrative; according to the market research firm, Markets-and-Markets, the drone services market is estimated to reach 63.6 billion dollars by 2025 at a CAGR of 55.9% from 2019 to 2020.

Use Cases for a Drone-on-Demand Service Provider


While these services are relatively new, and people are still discovering new ways to use them, there are immediate use cases where such services are yielding tremendous commercial benefits. Some of them are listed below.

Roof Inspection of private and commercial estates: Roof inspection is a popular application of drones because aerial inspections can do the job quickly, versus manual ones, at a lower cost. Drones also bring in a level of data sophistication in the entire inspection process. With technologies like thermal and 3D imaging, a drone combined with intelligent software can automatically detect things like water damage, insulation issues, structural damages, etc.

While a property owner/caretaker may not wish to own drones and find skilled pilots to operate them, services provided by drone-on-demand companies can be a practical and economical solution.

Aerial inspection of construction sites: Inspections are common at a construction site. But with a drone, a pilot can inspect the outer facades of such structures without the need of manpower and heavy equipment. Since operations like this require skilled pilots, specialized drones, and sophisticated software, a drone-on-demand service, customized for construction applications, can make a lot of business sense.

drone on demand for construction

Emergency Response: There are several drone solution providers that are specialized in emergency response projects. For example, a US-based company called Phirst Technologies, LLC has developed a drone-based first responder system called First iZ, using FlytBase’s technology, that integrates with the CAD (computer-aided dispatch) system which powers the 911 emergency services in Tyler, Texas, USA. This system allows emergency operators to dispatch drones from a unified dashboard to gather information on an emergency situation and pass on the information to human responders who can arrive later, better informed, and prepared.

Public Safety: Drones are extensively used in operations like search and rescue, crowd control, disaster assessment, etc. In an event, Airworks 2019, DJI had announced that drones saved the lives of 279 people. There are service providers who specialize in public safety operations.

drone on demand for public safety

Industrial inspection: Drones are an important tool in the energy and utility sectors. Drones are used for inspecting refineries and gas pipelines to detect damages such as corrosion and cracks. They are also flown over wind turbines to inspect the blades. Such activities require a fair amount of specialization in aerial navigation, which is why there are sector-focused service providers for such drone applications.

Live Video Streaming From Drones

Security and surveillance: There are numerous companies that provide turnkey, drone-based security solutions for some of the following use-cases:

  • Event surveillance
  • Crown monitoring
  • Intrusion detection
  • Border security


drone security operations

Drone delivery: The concept of using drones for last-mile delivery has been around for almost a decade. Since the technology involved is challenging, service providers in this space are highly specialized and tend to focus on a specific kind of package deliveries. For example, Zipline is a company that provides an autonomous drone solution for medical deliveries.

drone delivery operations infographics

Note: Download our comprehensive guide on how to set up a drone delivery operation using Flytnow.

How FlytNow Business/Enterprise Enables a Drone-on-Demand Service


A drone-on-demand service provider brings the hardware and software together to deliver a turnkey solution for a particular use case. FlyBase, an enterprise drone automation software company, offers FlytNow to such companies. FlytNow is a cloud-based video-streaming and fleet management solution that also provides edge-level intelligence to conduct a variety of drone operations.

How FlytNow works?


FlytNow is a cloud-based application that has a dashboard, which can be accessed from a web browser. A user can connect a drone with FlytNow either using our FlytOS mobile app or the SBC cloud connect software kit. Below is an illustration that explains the setup.

drone software

Note: we have the enterprise version that supports the integration of ground-based hardware as well.

There are two versions of FlytNow that are suitable for drone solution providers: Business and Enterprise.

FlytNow Business


The Business version is an out-of-the-box solution, with the following features:

Live video streaming from the drone to the FlytNow dashboard: Video can be streamed from multiple drones on a single screen with the ability to share them with anyone via an email. This feature is useful for commercial providers who offer services related to:

  • Remote roof inspection.
  • Construction site inspection (read our case study).
  • Surveillance.
  • Delivery.
  • Emergency and public safety.
  • Industrial inspections.


With FlytNow, a drone operator can fly a drone over a roof/construction site/inspection site and live-stream the video to stakeholders sitting hundreds of miles away. Similarly, during an emergency response or a delivery operation, live streaming can be used to gather situational information.

drone software for on demand services

Video archiving: FlytNow supports the integration with an Amazon S3 instance, which is used to store incoming video feeds. The videos are automatically stored, and the feature is useful in:

  • Surveillance.
  • All forms of inspection.
  • Emergency and public safety.


All archived videos can be accessed from the FlytNow dashboard with time and date stamps.

flytnow for drones

Thermal Camera Support: FlytNow supports streaming from a thermal camera. The feature is useful in:

  • Detecting water damage during a roof inspection.
  • Spotting structural damages during a construction site inspection.
  • Spotting leakages during refinery or pipeline inspections.
  • Intruder detection during night time.
  • Identify trapped/lost victims during search and rescue operations.


Learn how FlytNow can enhance night time surveillance.

drones for search and rescue

Map annotation: FlytNow dashboard has a built-in map that shows the real-time location of drones that are online. The map also supports adding a description in way-points. The feature can be used to record information during.

  • An inspection of a roof/building.
  • Pipeline/refinery/wind-turbine inspections, to record useful findings.
  • Surveillance.
  • Record situational information during an emergency mission.


Mission Planner: It is an advanced feature that allows an operator to define a route from point A to point B with waypoints for a drone to follow. This feature can be useful in:

  • Surveillance operations, where a drone can be made to go on a patrol on a predefined path.
  • Public safety and emergency operations, where a drone can be programmed to go to a location and monitor the situation.
  • Industrial inspections, where a drone can complete a pipeline inspection autonomously over a predefined path.
  • Defining a delivery route for drone delivery.


Support for custom drones: FlytNow supports enterprise DJI drones and custom drones based on PX4 and Ardupilot. Custom drones are required for specific tasks like delivery which requires long-range and heavy payload carrying capabilities. This means a service provider using FlytNow is not restricted to a particular drone hardware platform.

FlytNow Enterprise


The Enterprise version covers everything that the Business version has to offer, plus customized modules for large scale deployment of drones with extensive flight automation. These include:

AI-based features: FlytBase provides an operating system (FlytOS) that is installed in a single-board computer, which is fitted on a drone. This makes the drone capable of performing the following things under the Enterprise plan:

drone in a box solution

  • Precision landing: Allows the drone to land on a machine-generated tag.
  • Object detection: Allows the drone to classify ground objects using the on-board camera.
  • Obstacle avoidance: Allows the drone to navigate around obstacles automatically.
  • Custom payload integration: Allows remote operation of custom made payloads as well as payloads from DJI for Mavic 2 Enterprise.


Integration with ground-based hardware: The enterprise version comes with the option to integrate with various ground-based hardware like:

drone in a box

  • Charging pad: A platform that charges a drone when it lands on it. The Enterprise version can be easily integrated with charging pads from Skysense.
  • Drone-in-a-box hardware: A docking station that completely houses a drone and keeps it fully charged.


Integration with third-party software: The Enterprise version also supports integration with third-party applications for the following:

  • UTM Intelligence: It is required to acquire airspace information so the drone does not interfere with manned aircraft and complies with legal norms. FlytNow Enterprise has native support for Airmap.
  • Logging applications: Such applications capture the flight data for a drone. FlytNow Enterprise has native support for Dronelogbook.


Advanced flight planning: FlytNow Enterprise has features to precisely control drone flights and ensure the safety of drones around human populations. Some of those features are:

  • Advanced geofencing: Precisely defines the area of operation of a drone with the help of polygons.
  • Custom NFZ integration: It is the ability to define No-Fly-Zones for drones.
  • Advanced failsafes: It refers to the ELP (Emergency Landing Point) feature that allows a drone operator to define emergency landing points alongside a predefined route. ELPs come in handy when a drone in a BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) mission has to do an emergency landing.


The Enterprise version is ideal for service providers who are into making systems where drones can takeoff autonomously after receiving a command, automatically go to a location and perform their mission and come back safely after complete the mission. In a nutshell, it provides customization, automation, and scalability.

Summary


In this blog, we learned about drone-on-demand services and the use-cases they are relevant. We also learned about FlytNow Business and Enterprise editions, what each has to offer, and how each can enable drone service providers.

Deploy drones in 5 easy steps and leverage the power of FlytNow to create a network of drones for On-Demand-Drone services with capabilities of automation and AI.  To experience FlytNow, sign up for our free trial for 28 days using this link: https://flytnow.com/pricing/

If you are interested in partnering with us, please visit https://flytnow.com/partner/

Read more…

FlytBase, Inc. flagship product FlytNow is a cloud-based drone video streaming & fleet management solution, which provides a web-based portal to manage live drone operations remotely over 4G/LTE/5G. FlytNow provides live HD video feed, drone & camera gimbal control, and telemetry at ultra-low latency over the internet.

To empower users with the ability to use drones from a variety of manufacturers, FlytBase has now launched a Companion Computer (SBC) based Cloud Connect Software Module for the FlytNow platform. The software module supports custom drones using the firmware PX4 and Ardupilot, and popular autopilots like Pixhawk, Cubepilot, mRo X2.1 (a reduced version of Pixhawk1), Pixhawk4, Pixhawk5, etc. It also supports enterprise DJI drones like  DJI M210, M210 RTK, M300 RTK, M600, etc. and flight DJI controllers: A3 and N3. 

Role of custom drones

Custom drones built for a particular use-case provide better capabilities and efficiency compared to standard off-the-shelf drones. For example, in delivery operations, drones are required to fly long distances and carry heavy payloads; custom VTOL drones can fulfill such requirements. Similarly, for security, public safety, and emergency operations, drones that can carry specialize payload (thermal camera, loudspeaker, beacons, etc) and can transmit data securely are better suited, which can be achieved through a custom-built.  

How the PX4/Ardupilot Cloud Connect Module Works?

The cloud-connect module is a software solution to connect Pixhawk & CubePilot based Drones with FlytNow Business and FlytNow Enterprise.

6424128081?profile=RESIZE_710x

Users can install the software on a companion computer of their choice (Jetson Nano, Jetson Xavier NX, Raspberry Pi 3b+/4 Odroid N2, DJI Manifold 2) and then connect the companion computer (SBC) directly to a drone’s flight controller. Once integrated, the drone can directly connect with FlytNow Business/Enterprise over 4G/LTE/5G/WiFi network through USB/Ethernet dongle or router on the companion computer. 

6424186854?profile=RESIZE_584x

6424210072?profile=RESIZE_584x

 

6424220263?profile=RESIZE_584x

 

Why Connect to FlytNow Business/Enterprise Edition?

6424233658?profile=RESIZE_710x

Connecting a drone with FlytNow using an SBC allows a user to perform remote drone operations with the drone fleet. It also enables EVLOS or BVLOS (might require regulatory clearance) flights, thus opening up business opportunities in security & surveillance, drone delivery, mapping & surveys, public safety, emergency response, inspections, etc.

“FlytNow compatibility with PX4, Ardupilot, and DJI drones allows system integrators, commercial drone operators, and subject matter experts to use a hybrid fleet of drones better suited to their requirements. 
Subject matter experts or operation heads can now see live HD video feed, telemetry at the back office as the drone operation commences on the field. This adds a lot of value for drone teams and leads to better management, ultimately saving time & cost.” - Achal Negi, Head of Business Development at FlytBase.

The FlytNow Business Edition provides out-of-the-box capabilities for operators involved in security, surveillance, public safety & emergency response. Whereas, the Enterprise version provides customization and end-to-end automation to scale drone operations with a large fleet for use-cases such as drone delivery, automated surveys, inspections, and monitoring.

Stakeholders that use the FlytNow Business/Enterprise for drone operations can:

 

  • Connect, control, and live stream videos from drones over 4G/LTE/5G network.
  • Connect multiple drones and control them from a single web-based dashboard. 
  • Live-stream multiple video-feeds and share them with third parties via email.
  • Connect to a private cloud for video archiving. 
  • Initiate advanced failsafes like RTH (Return to Home) to automatically make a drone return base and ELP (Emergency Landing Point), available only in the Enterprise version, which allows a drone to land on a predefined point along a route in case of an emergency.
  • Integrate with third-party airspace information service providers like Airmap (an Enterprise feature). This feature is crucial for BVLOS and EVLOS flights. 
  • Create advanced geofence using polygons in the Enterprise version. 
  • Integrate precision landing and collision avoidance capabilities (only in Enterprise version)

How do I get started?

  1. To get started with FlytNow, sign up for a 28-day free trial at https://app.flytnow.com

  2. To connect your Pixhawk/Cubepilot drone choose the supported drone hardware and install the software following the documentation given at https://docs.flytbase.com

  3. Cloud connect software module and license can be purchased at https://store.flytbase.com/product/flytnow-bvlos-kit/

Have questions about FlytNow Pro/Business/Enterprise and supported hardware?
Schedule a 30-min free consultation with FlytNow expert -- drop a message at
https://flytnow.com/contact

You may also join FlytNow user community on Facebook, LinkedIn, and FlytForums (forums.flytnow.com)

Read more…