Sky-Futures, a UK-based company offering drone inspection services to the global oil and gas industry, through their Houston office, was awarded an FAA exemption allowing their drones to fly in US air space.
The exemption allows Sky-Futures to perform infrastructure inspections of oil and gas facilities on and off shore. The drones collect HD video, stills and thermal imagery of live flare, structural and under deck platforms which are then analyzed by flare systems and structural engineers.
This type of flying visual inspection gathers digital data enabling oil and gas operators to make informed decisions with respect to asset conditions under deck, from exhausts, flare towers, and other hard to access structural areas.
In one example, the use of a drone team for this type of inspection saved over 90% of the costs of traditional rope access inspection work – work that would have required a shutdown during the inspection and the hiring of a support vessel, plus a very dangerous job for the human inspectors.
Earlier this month the FAA also exempted ComEd (Commonwealth Edison is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon – a power provider with over 7.8M customers) so that they could use UAS technology to more proactively identify problems before they interrupt power to customers. ComEd is also investigating using underground robots in manholes to inspect complex underground spaces. The robots would be deployed ahead of workers and used more routinely as the application of this technology advances.