Small unmanned airborne systems to support oil and gas pipeline monitoring and mapping

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Oil and gas transmission pipelines require monitoring for maintenance and safety, to prevent equipment failure and accidents. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) technology is emerging as an opportunity to supplement current monitoring systems. Small UAV technological solutions are flexible and adaptable and with a demonstrated capacity to obtain valuable data at small to medium spatial scales. Systematic surveys of extensive areas are better completed with fixed-wing platforms and automatic flight design, whilst multirotor platforms provide flexibility in shorter and localized inspection missions. The type of sensor carried by an aerial platform determines the sort of data acquired and the obtainable information; sensors also determine the need for specific mechanical designs and the provision of energy on-board required from the system. UAV systems prototyped to monitor pipelines are reviewed in this paper, and a number of monitoring scenarios are proposed and illustrated. Notwithstanding difficulties encountered in the generalization of use for civilian applications, small UAVs have demonstrated, through research and operational cases, the capacity to support the inspection and monitoring of oil and gas pipelines.
Original languageEnglish
Article number202
Number of pages17
JournalArabian Journal of Geosciences
Early online date2 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017

Bibliographical note

We thank Johan Havelaar, Aeryon Labs Inc., AeronVironment Inc. and Aeronautics Inc. for kindly permitting the use of materials in Fig. 1.


  • Oil and gas pipeline
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle
  • Monitoring
  • Safety
  • Regulations


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