Traditionally right-of-way inspections are performed either by a crew walking or driving trucks and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) follow the pipeline stopping at regular intervals to inspect and photograph flanges, valves, back-flow preventors and other pipeline related structures. Other options include UAV’s and helicopters, that fly the pipeline. Helicopters have a longer initial range capability as they are not restricted by BVLOS operational restrictions. Helicopters can fly at a higher altitude yet are unable to access tight and dangerous locations, and are an order of magnitude more expensive than UAV’s.
Fixed wing UAV’s have a longer flight capability but infringe on BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) which limits the distance from the Operator/Pilot in Command are restricted by to complete these Missions. flying the pipeline with a manned helicopter or fixed wing aircraft.Typically, visual inspections are sufficient in identifying standard anomalies; any suspected issues can then be further investigated using more sophisticated sensor packages when needed.
The “copter” UAV provides very specific photographic image and the ability to hover and focus on a specific anomaly which can be sent to the Pipeline Operator who can visually observe in real time, and make an informed decision on the plan of action to repair or resolve the issue. When an anomaly is detected during these inspections, as much observational data as possible is collected in the field, (this can be gas spectrum analysis, thermographic or an assortment of varied examinations that can be executed dependent o the hardware mounted on the drone.