Photo: Drone used for the test in 2020; Source: Equinor

Equinor, Nordic Unmanned to study offshore oil and gas drone use

Norwegian oil major Equinor has hired compatriot data solutions company Nordic Unmanned to conduct a study on how remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) could be used in an offshore setting.

Nordic Unmanned said on Friday that the offshore operations would include work in the airspace between installations and vessels, in search and rescue (SAR) operations, to and from shore travel, and more.

The study for Equinor will identify suitable solutions for comprehensive operational testing during the summer of 2021 and will focus on the autonomous integration of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in unmanned traffic management (UTM) airspace, autonomous flight and landings systems, identification of available technology and regulatory requirements.

Vice-president of logistics and robotization at Nordic Unmanned Pål Kristensen said: “We are honoured to continue our work with Equinor to implement RPAS to increase safety and efficiency, create increased data value and reduce carbon footprint.

In 2020 we created aviation history together when we completed the world’s first logistics operation with a drone to an offshore installation.

This next phase is an important step in the right direction towards a full-scale implementation of autonomous remotely piloted aircraft systems in the offshore oil and gas industry, and we are excited to be selected for this opportunity. This continues to be a game-changer“.

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Regarding ‘aviation history’ Kristensen mentioned, he refers to a first-ever drone transport to an offshore field. Namely, Equinor transported a 3D-printed part for the lifeboat system from the Mongstad base to the Troll A platform in the North Sea.

The flight spanning around 80 kilometres to the Troll field took about one hour, at an altitude of around 5,000 feet. This was a test of an actual freight operation conducted over a long distance to an operating offshore installation.

The drone was a Camcopter S-100 model manufactured by Schiebel while the operator of the drone was Nordic Unmanned.