Pictometry and NUAIR to Research UAS for Pipeline and Gas Utility Inspections



Aerial photo taken by Pictometry. Photo: Pictometry.

Pictometry, a provider of aerial imagery, data analytics and geographical information systems solutions, was granted a research project award by NYSEARCH/Northeast Gas Association, a research and development organization comprised of 19 natural gas companies across the U.S. and Canada, to research the feasibility of using unmanned aircraft systems to improve the speed and safety of routine and emergency pipeline and gas utility inspections.

Pictometry, an EagleView Technology Corp. company, will work with the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance to select potential flight areas and earn airspace approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“With an eye-in-the-sky perspective, we hope to obtain more information and see more so it is safer for our inspectors,” says Joseph P. Mallia, of NYSEARCH/NGA. “It can be dangerous for people during these inspections, especially under bridges and other difficult-to-reach areas. Our members perform inspections regularly, and we believe that a well equipped UAS featuring cameras and methane detectors could introduce an additional effective inspection instrument.”

The company will use UAS outfitted with high-resolution cameras and potentially methane detection devices that will help enhance pipeline safety. Tests will involve flight plan creation, protocol development and effective field implementation.

“Gas utility inspections and surveys are critical to safe operation of the pipelines,” says Mallia. “They involve many trained field technicians, vehicles and instrumentation. If we can use a UAS to capture additional intelligent images and data, it may provide an increased level of information that we can act on for maintaining pipeline integrity.”


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