The Benefits of Drone Use for Pipeline Monitoring

Pipelines are increasingly being used to move natural resources across large territories in lieu of manual transportation. Pipelines are an energy efficient method of transporting these resources, but they do require ongoing monitoring to ensure proper operation and to contain spills into the environment. With their ability to monitor large tracts of land on an ongoing basis with little to no manpower, drones are the perfect technology to pair with pipelines to ensure the latter are operating correctly.

Over the past few years, we’ve repeatedly seen the environmental costs of pipeline leaks. Such leaks, if left unnoticed, can also present major economic costs to the pipeline operator. Drone technology happens to be excellent at catching pipeline leaks via thermal imaging, because the leaking material tends to be of a different temperature than the surrounding ground.

There is currently no go-to drone for the pipeline market, largely because the FAA has tight controls on how drones can be used for commercial operations. One of the more restrictive guidelines is the “line of sight” requirement, which mandates all commercially operated drones must be kept within the direct line of sight of their human operator. This rule has had less of an impact on drone use for agriculture, because drones can cover many acres of farmland while still staying in sight, but with pipeline monitoring, where the territory to be covered is linear, staying within line of sight has been a huge deterrent to adopting drone technology. When talking about monitoring thousands of miles of pipeline, the human cost of sufficient operators to comply with the “line of sight” requirement would be cost-prohibitive.

However, the FAA has recently been loosening some of their requirements, likely because of the realization that drones have vast untapped potential for commercial use. As UAV technology improves in range and accuracy, there will be fewer and fewer reasons to keep controls as tight as they have been.

The Robota Eclipse UAV system is well suited for pipeline monitoring, because of its long endurance, long communications range, and high resolution RGB or thermal camera options. The Eclipse UAV is the most complete and competitive mapping solution of its kind, with applications in agriculture, construction, mining, and urban analysis. With each Eclipse, we are proud to offer a combination of features that no other UAV in the market can provide:

  • Hand-launched takeoff, no additional hardware required
  • Higher wing loading, leading to better high-wind performance
  • Small field landing with reverse thrust capability
  • Can cover nearly 400 acres per 50-minute flight
  • Your choice of high-resolution camera
  • 1-click software updates from anywhere in the world

Each Eclipse is custom-made in the U.S.A. and tested extensively prior to delivery to the customer.

Contact us today to find out more about how the Eclipse drone system can provide an affordable solution for your pipeline monitoring needs.