The world’s first commercial use of beyond-line-of-sight drones has been achieved in inland Queensland to monitor natural gas wells and associated infrastructure on grazing properties.
The partnership between Shell’s Queensland Gas Company project and Boing has seen well inspections successfully conducted by remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), replacing the need for inspections on the ground by four-wheel-drive.
A QGC statement said the partnership has developed the world’s first commercial use of beyond-line-of-sight RPAS.
The use of drones to monitor wells meant landowners would benefit from fewer visits by well inspectors to their properties and fewer vehicles on their roads, Shell’s Vice President QGC Tony Nunan said.
The Queensland Premier this morning announced $1 million to support a research project that builds on the Shell-Boeing RPAS partnership.
The funding will develop and test RPAS technologies for adoption by industries including LNG, agriculture, mining, energy, telecommunications, search and rescue and environmental management.
“The project aims to capitalise on the capabilities inherent in drones to carry out remote-monitoring and inspection of key infrastructure and data analysis to allow for better decision-making,” Anastacia Palaszczuk said.
“Drone technology has the capability of introducing greater efficiencies in a range of Queensland industries and we want to make sure our state develops an industry that delivered jobs as part of this process.”
Technologies to be developed comprise an improved airspace situational awareness prototype system that will enable safe RPAS operations over a broad area and enhanced data analytics tools.
The drones used by QGC to monitor its wells are operated by Insitu Pacific, a subsidiary of Boeing. They have a 3m wingspan and fly at 1,500-2,000ft, in compliance with air safety regulations of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
QGC says the drones operate in line with strict privacy controls and policies, and it does not receive imagery of people’s homes.