Inspectioneering

Integripedia Topic
Drones - Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Explore this topic

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is any aircraft that operates without a human pilot on board. UAVs and the equipment used to control them remotely are collectively referred to as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). 

UAVs have a wide range of uses in variety of fields including recreational, commercial, or military purposes. It’s important to note though that in the United States, all aerial vehicles, manned or not, are governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and all non-recreational, civil aircraft operations in the country must comply with FAA regulations.

Over the last decade, UAVs have been utilized more frequently in the O&G and petrochemical industries to help operators inspect and monitor their assets. Remote visual inspection from an aerial perspective using very high resolution, high zoom cameras is the number one application. Infrared cameras, gas detection sensors, multi and hyperspectral cameras are several additional capabilities of a drone. 

UAVs can be used to inspect nearly any structure, both indoors and outdoors, but they are most useful in the inspection of structures that are difficult to reach by traditional means. This can include tall structures, such as flare stacks, elevated pipe trays, and cooling towers, as well as confined spaces in which space is limited for traditional inspections. It can also include structures that are over water such as bridges or the undersides of oil rig platforms.

If implemented properly by knowledgeable and experienced operators, UAVs have the ability to effectively inspect difficult to access, elevated areas, while saving owner-users time and money, and reducing exposing personnel to unnecessary risk. Using the aforementioned cameras and sensors, elevated work can be minimized or even eliminated. Drones coupled with these advanced technologies can also help narrow the focus to specific areas so maintenance crews know exactly what they’re dealing with before they leave the ground. This is especially useful for turnaround planning. Areas that were once only accessible with scaffolding or rope access can now be accessed using drones at a fraction of the time and cost. Moreover, equipment can remain in service during drone operations; flare stacks are a good example of this. Other applications include inspecting insulation for damage and early detection of corrosion under insulation (CUI) on difficult to reach operating columns, reactors, and piping, just to name a few.

In 2019, the American Petroleum Institute published a 32-page guide for developing drone programs in the O&G industry, which have and will continue to grow significantly as new systems, applications, sensors and techniques are developed to make drone operations more tailored to the industry. 

Topic Tools

Share this Topic

Contribute to Definition

We welcome updates to this Integripedia definition from the Inspectioneering community. Click the link below to submit any recommended changes for Inspectioneering's team of editors to review.

Contribute to Definition
Articles about Drones - Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
March/April 2021 Inspectioneering Journal

As more are educated on the benefits of utilizing ropes and drones, skepticism has become far less common, and we’re sure to see adoption grow in the coming years of both of these methods—and, perhaps, of this new hybrid approach to work as well.

Authors: Danny Landry
Blog

In this Reynolds Wrap Up, the author will summarize his key takeaways from a recent robotics event, including interesting applications, challenges that robotic inspection suppliers still face, pros and cons of robotic and UAV inspection, and more.

Authors: John Reynolds
January/February 2020 Inspectioneering Journal

Inspectioneering and PinnacleART co-hosted their 5th Meeting of the Minds roundtable last November in Atlanta. This meeting’s focus was on notable technologies and how they are changing the MI landscape.

Authors: Jeremiah Wooten
May/June 2019 Inspectioneering Journal

This article discusses how drone data can impact asset integrity management (AIM) programs, the challenges associated with drone data management, and where the technology is heading.

Authors: Patrick Saracco
January/February 2019 Inspectioneering Journal

The use of drones for confined space inspection is proving to reduce safety risks and create efficiencies in both time and cost. These benefits have been realized particularly in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry in internal tank inspection.

Authors: Philip Buchan
Partner Content

FFS assessment techniques are applicable to a wide range of damage types: LTA's, cracks, creep damage, dents, and more. These are very powerful analytical tools that often allow operators to not only keep the plant running, but to keep it running...

July/August 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

The benefits and advantages of drone inspection over other methods have made this technology a viable solution in industry. As utilization of drone technology continues to grow and expand, it’s important to not only understand what they can do but...

Authors: Philip Buchan
March/April 2018 Inspectioneering Journal

This article features a case study on the feasibility of a wall-sticking drone for effectively conducting ultrasonic testing and other NDT methods on equipment at elevated heights.

Authors: Rami Mattar
March/April 2017 Inspectioneering Journal

Application of drones in industrial inspections is not new, although it is still performed by only handful of companies. Market penetration of this technology in the industrial space has been relatively slow.

Authors: Rami Mattar
November/December 2016 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.

Authors: Joey Johnston
September/October 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

This article is intended to provide some helpful insights when it comes to Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs), and to hopefully put you on the path to safer and more cost-effective inspections utilizing UAS technologies.

Partner Content

Piping accounts for roughly 40% of “accidental releases” at major petroleum facilities. Modern robots can inspect every inch of piping while still in service, giving you a clear picture of your most concerning areas.

Blog

These are interesting times when it comes to inspection technology in the process industries. With the advent of big data, mobile and wireless technology, and various other technological advances, we thought it would be a good idea to provide a...

Authors: Nick Schmoyer
Blog

Last Wednesday the FAA announced an initiative to allow three additional commercial drone applications; applications that will bring big value to the Oil and Gas and Petrochemical industries. Today, drone operators must have a Section 333 Exemption...

Authors: Nick Harwood
March/April 2015 Inspectioneering Journal

The ability to gain this unique perspective has recently become easier and safer with today’s technological advancements. This new technology comes in the form of a miniature flying machine, better known as a drone or small Unmanned Aerial System...

January/February 2014 Inspectioneering Journal

UAS (Unmanned Arial System) drone technology has numerous applications, including anything at elevated heights or where human access and/or occupancy are prohibited, or in the case of confined spaces, limited.

Authors: Jason C. Shankle
    News related to Drones - Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

      Inspectioneering Journal

      Explore over 20 years of articles written by our team of subject matter experts.

      Company Directory

      Find relevant products, services, and technologies.

      Talent Solutions

      Discover job opportunities that match your skillset.

      Case Studies

      Learn from the experience of others in the industry.

      Integripedia

      Inspectioneering's index of mechanical integrity topics – built by you.

      Industry News

      Stay up-to-date with the latest inspection and asset integrity management news.

      Blog

      Read short articles and insights authored by industry experts.

      Expert Interviews

      Inspectioneering's archive of interviews with industry subject matter experts.

      Event Calendar

      Find upcoming conferences, training sessions, online events, and more.

      Downloads

      Downloadable eBooks, Asset Intelligence Reports, checklists, white papers, and more.

      Videos

      Watch educational and informative videos directly related to your profession.

      Acronyms

      Commonly used asset integrity management and inspection acronyms.