BP donates methane-detecting drone technology

Aeryon Scout flying
An Aeryon Scout carries the methane gas detection payload during a test flight.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute and BP have developed a way to detect methane gas using aerial drones.

The technology was tested in Alaska’s North Slope oilfields during the past three years.

BP recently donated the methane detection payload equipment to the UAF Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration.

“BP is a technology company,” said Glen Pomeroy, BP Alaska region director of pipeline assurance. “This project, in particular, illustrates our commitment to developing and deploying technologies that have the potential to make our operations safer, smarter and more reliable.”

The new technology provides extremely accurate pinpoint detection of methane gas using small, unmanned aircraft systems.  The Alaska field testing was focused on operating in adverse weather conditions using a Aeryon Scout UAS as the test aircraft.

“Over the course of this project, we were able to take the capability of a 14-kilogram spectroscopic gas analyzer and reduce it in size to a less than 750-gram package, a groundbreaking achievement,” said Eyal Saiet, the lead researcher at UAF for this project.

BP has been a leader in the use of unmanned aircraft for infrastructure and safety monitoring. In 2014, BP received the first commercial authorization in the United States from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones over land at its Prudhoe Bay operations in Alaska.

ACUASI has been conducting unmanned aircraft research in Alaska since 2001 and is the lead organization for one of the FAA’s UAS test sites. ACUASI is part the UAF Geophysical Institute.

ADDITIONAL CONTACT: Eyal Saiet, UAF Geophysical Institute, ejsaiet@alaska.edu. or Dawn Patience, BP, dawn.patience@bp.com.

ON THE WEB: http://acuasi.alaska.edu/