Offshore maintenance drones

Aerial drones are increasing in applicability, and are already used for structural inspections of offshore platforms and wind farms.[1,2,3] Their integration and modularization with more advanced tools will allow them to perform increasingly sophisticated maintenance and repair jobs in difficult-to-reach places. Robotic maintenance by drones will reduce costs, increase safety, and enhance servicing efforts.[4]

The drones and robotics market is undergoing tremendous growth, with an estimated market forecast to reach $81.4bn by 2022.[5] In the next 3 to 5 years, the oil and gas industry is planning to double its investment portfolio in drones and robotics, from 15% to 28%.[5] Drones are already incorporating light-weight components, such as radars, cameras, magnetometers, as well as instruments that measure light penetration, wind, and temperature.[1]

In order to perform routine maintenance and repair tasks, drones will need to be combined with heavier tools, such as cutting arms, precision grinders, manipulators, and/or welding equipment. Accommodating for the weight and providing the required power for tools onto aerial drones remains a challenge for their application.

When will it become accepted practice that drones will be maintaining and repairing offshore installations?

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[1] Joshi, D., (2019), Drone technology uses and applications for commercial, industrial and military drones in 2020 and the future
[2] Brogaard, R., (2020), Inspektion med droneteknologi
[3] Daponte, P., De Vito, L., Glielmo, L., Iannelli, L., Liuzza, D., Picariello, F. and Silano, G., (2019), A review on the use of drones for precision agriculture.
[4] UAS Vision, (2018), 10 Benefits of Drone-Based Asset Inspections
[5] Frost & Sullivan, (2017), Application of Drones and Robots in Oil and Gas Industry – A Cost Effective and Safe Method of Inspection and Surveillance.
More information:
The Construction Index, (2019), Funding boost for pipe repair robots.
Boesch, D., (2018), Trump’s offshore oil drilling plans ignore the lessons of BP Deepwater Horizon.
Kimberley, G., (2018), Robotic and drone technology could transform the offshore oil market.
Nichols, M., (2017), Advantages Of Drone-Based Preventive Maintenance In Offshore Oil Inspections.
Shukla, A., Karki, H.,(2016), Application of robotics in offshore oil and gas industry— A review Part II.
Miller, P., (2019), High-Tech Inspections.

By Matthew J. Spaniol