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Image courtesy of Identified Technologies/Facebook.

Drones have been steadily making their way into the all corners of the energy industry and now a Pennsylvania based firm is looking to make it cheaper and safer to survey sites with aerial drones.

Identified Technologies is hoping to revolutionize how oil and gas firms survey and maintain projects with its fleet of aerial survey drones.

CEO Dick Zhang, a Goldman Sachs alum, was conducting seemingly typical field test at a nearby construction site turned into a business opportunity.

“I get a call next day [from the site manager]. He said ‘listen we’re kicking off this new project next week, how much would it cost to get this thing on site?’ So the fact that he was so forward and was so quick to get interested piqued my attention,” Zhang told PGN.

 

The company’s fleet of drones are self-piloting and deliver a slew of 2-D and 3-D mapping options that can be shared in real time.

The automated drones will make surveying projects cheaper, faster and safer by reducing the need for manpower and keeping workers out of harms way.

While traditional survey methods can take hours or even weeks to complete Zhang said his quadrocopter drones can cut surveying time down to minutes.

“Some of our clients used to wait 8 to 10 weeks for aerial mapping data from a helicopter … we can do the same thing but instead of 8 weeks we’ll do it in 15 minutes,” Zhang said.

Energy firms throughout the Marcellus shale region have eagerly adopted the drones for construction and post-construction work at pipelines, drilling pads and plants.

“There is a huge opportunity to improve the efficiency of infrastructure as well as boosting safety,” Zhang said.

The drone, known as the Boomerang, is about 6 inches tall and 13 inches wide.

When the drones aren’t busy collecting data they rest at a docking station that lives on the site for the duration of the project.

The docking station can also charge and hot swap the drone’s batteries while the unit continues mapping.

The Boomerang can also be used for offshore applications and has been tested in wind speeds of up to 33 miles per hour.

One of the most promising applications for the drones is leak detection.

Zhang said preliminary gas sensor tests have delivered promising results and that further testing is ongoing.

“We’re working with customers and industry partners right now on testing and developing the capabilities. We hope to roll those out on a larger scale over the next two years,” Zhang said.

The next big step for Identified’s drones will be using their real time data collection system to provide increased infrastructure monitoring and prevent catastrophic incidences.

“If I noticed in January that I had particular reading that changed a little bit in February and March and then changed even more in April I would be able to alert my safety team and say… look we know from previous signatures if we see more  changes we’ll have a catastrophic incident,” Zhang said.