What happens when you marry the $37 billion pipeline inspection industry, the $1 billion UAV industry, and the $4 billion AI industry? An opportunity for massive disruption. There are over 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines in the U.S. alone, and most of it is over 50 years old. This requires a considerable maintenance and inspection effort. Today, pipeline failures result in $390 million in annual costs, with over 40 serious incidents per year and over 1000 injuries and fatalities in the past two decades.
Historically, pipeline inspection has been a tedious, manual process. Helicopter inspections have greatly accelerated the process, but at $3000 per hour, a better answer was needed. That has come in the form of drones or UAVs. UAVs range in size from 1st and 2nd generation with simple video recording and still photo capabilities, and manual piloting control, to the new powerful 7th generation UAVs designed for commercial use, with fully compliant safety and regulatory standards-based design, platform and payload interchangeability, automated safety modes, enhanced intelligent piloting models and full autonomy, full airspace awareness, and auto action (takeoff, land, and mission execution).
UAVs have significantly lower costs per mile inspected, lower operational risks, are easily re-tasked, provide better imagery, reduce human expenses and exposure, and are far more environmentally friendly. Additionally, they can operate in inclement weather and day and night. The new larger drones are also able to carry a wide variety of sensors, including visible and multi-wavelength still, stereo and video cameras, thermal and near infrared imaging, LiDAR, Radar, and laser gas detectors and fluorosensors.
These sensors generate huge amounts of data, which are ideally suited for artificial intelligence and machine learning. AI can be used to examine the sensor data in real time or asynchronously and quickly alert operators to the primary problems that plague oil and gas pipelines: corrosion (50%), mechanical damage/third-party incidents (20%), storm and mud slide damage (12%), and material or equipment failure (9%).
Digital Nebula is ushering in the cognitive revolution with artificially intelligent solutions for UAVs in the Oil & Gas industry. Our approach intakes live or asynchronous UAV (or other ROV) data from Optical, Thermal, Near Infrared, LiDAR, Multispectral Analysis and Methane sensors. Raw sensor data is then prepared, including tagging and classification to prepare it for AI processing, and then processed by Digital Nebula’s AI models trained and tuned specifically for pipeline and oilfield inspection use cases. Alerts generated by the AI model are then pushed via API to the customer’s Control Center dashboard or the UAV operator for immediate response.
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