General Electric Co has developed new commercial drone technology to detect gas leaks.
For a while now drones have been applied in increasing numbers to solve problems across industrial sectors. Usually, these applications offer benefits in terms of safety, cost, speed or efficiency. Aerial inspections of bridges and cell towers, for example, could render the days of brave crews armed with ropes and ladders mounting dangerous operations firmly in the past.
A single pilot can gather all the data required, in a move that will be faster, cheaper and safer for the majority of industrial projects.
The ‘Raven’ drone
That thinking is at the crux of GE‘s new drone, called Raven. Raven has been purpose-built to serve the needs of the oil and gas industry. The move has come in response to two things. First, a struggling fossil fuel industry is seeking any measures possible to save costs and increase efficiencies. And second, the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency this year launched new regulations requiring industry players to better detect and deal with leaks of any kind.
Currently still at the prototype stage, GE says Raven will offer industry maintenance crews a quick and easy way to inspect key equipment. The drone will come complete with autonomous flight and programmable flight plans, and is capable of streaming live data back to a central control room. In itself, that’s not particularly revolutionary, but GE also says the Raven can actively detect gas leaks.
Fitted with a laser-based sensor that reads methane levels in real time, Raven has successfully detected methane emissions at well sites in testing. GE is now working on perfecting the hardware and finalizing a software package to bring all the data together.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Lorenzo Simoneli, chief executive officer at GE Oil & Gas, said “When you think of Project Raven and the usage of new tools and applications, it’s going to be key to taking the industry forward. There’s a lot that you can do going forward to help drive productivity.”
Commercial drone industry on the up
Relaxing regulations and rapidly advancing technologies are providing the foundations for a boom in commercial drone services. Drones are disrupting industries ranging from agriculture and filmmaking to industrial inspection and conservation. According to a recent study on the commercial applications of drone technology by PwC, the emerging global market for business services using drones is valued at over $127 billion.