World's First Inside-the-Derrick Inspection With a Drone

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By Joey Johnston at DronePro, LLC. This article appears in the November/December 2016 issue of Inspectioneering Journal


In the first quarter of 2016, Texas-based DronePro LLC completed the first ever inside-the-derrick inspection of an offshore drilling rig utilizing a proprietary unmanned aircraft system (UAS), or drone, with its associated technology and equipment.  The inspection was undertaken for one of the world’s largest offshore drilling contractors on an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  Prior to this event, only rope-access inspections had been conducted on the inside of offshore derrick structures, which could take up to several days to complete.

However, during the client’s most recent inspection, a latest-generation aerial drone was utilized to record images inside a deepwater vessel derrick, including equipment, cabling, piping, nuts and bolts, etc., in only a few hours.  The drone inspected the outside of the derrick on the second day, thus greatly reducing the time and cost of the inspection. The internal inspection was made possible by new collision-avoidance technology, which enabled the drone to perform a detailed inspection of the intricate components, such as the pipe racking system (PRS) and top drive of the drilling derrick. This was a “world’s first” for drone inspections.

As a result of the successful inspection, the client realized savings of both time and money. A typical rope-access inspection of the same area would take anywhere from 7 to 15 days. Yet, from mobilization, through inspection, and to the final analyses of the video, the project was completed in only three days. A complete drone-flight inspection for both the inside and outside the derrick took eight hours.

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