How drones can help industry detect methane gas

Use of Drones for Methane Detection

Pipelines, compressors and pumps, are often located in areas that are difficult to monitor. Any equipment failures cause irreparable damage to the environment and, as a consequence, to economic costs. This explains the importance and relevance of developing modern and technological methods of oil and gas pipelines condition monitoring.

In general, inspection methods are mainly divided into ground and aerial, and the choice between them is conditioned by the specifics of the object to be inspected. Most inspections are carried out using ground teams of specialists and special equipment: gas analyzers, thermal radiometers, laser and lidar sensors. This applies to small industrial sites where there are not extensive networks of pipelines and other utilities. Such facilities can get by with fixed instruments to provide the necessary level of safety.

In other cases, aerial methods of inspection are used, and it is especially relevant for enterprises with transportation gas and oil pipelines, facilities located in hard-to-reach places and with difficult climatic conditions. Such facilities require systematic control, as well as immediate response to prevent the potential loss of gas during production, storage and use. In such cases, rovers, helicopters and drones are used for inspections.

It is objective to believe that drones would occupy this niche and even surpass any other method due to their undeniable advantages. Drones are capable not only of visually monitoring objects, but also carrying technical aids such as multispectral visible range meters, thermal radiometers that include the near-infrared range, hyperspectrometers, lidars, radars, laser fluorescent sensors, and acoustic sensors. The cost of using a UAV with the appropriate equipment is at least 10 times cheaper than using a helicopter.

Principle of operation

The operating principle of the unmanned system is based on remote monitoring of gas pipelines routes, both horizontal and vertical with the help of special gas leakage monitoring devices. Most often gas analyzers and laser scanners are used, which determine the distance from the device to the topographic object and back.

The operation of the laser gas analyzer is based on the ability of methane to absorb infrared radiation of a certain wavelength. When the beam detects methane, the instrument analyzes the emitted power, displaying gas concentration parameters on the screen. The location coordinates, time, wind direction at the time of detection, distance to the ground, gas emission level, and other data are also automatically recorded, allowing the situation to be assessed and ground response teams to plan their actions.

Display the detection data on the visualized real-time map
Display the detection data on the visualized real-time map.
DJI U10 Specifications 
Method of DetectionTDLASDetection targetMethane (CH4)
Stationary detection Limit5 ppm.mDetection LaserClass IIIR
Response Time25 ms(0.025s)Operating Temperature-20 ~ 50 °C
Sampling Rate500 KHzOperating Humidity<90%Rh, no condensation
detection Concentration Range0~ 50,000 ppm.mSize155x90x100mm
Max Detection100mWeight534g
Camera Video at 720pSupported AircraftDJI Matrice 200,300,600 Series

UAVs reduce inspection costs

The DJI U10 is a turnkey solution for the Matrice 200, 300 and 600 Series platforms, for  aerial site inspections. The sensor is capable of picking up a leak over 100 meters, even at a minimum concentration of 5 ppm-m (“parts per million”; the density of methane in the gas layer being probed). The gas analyzer operates based on the TDLAS method and has a fast gas concentration measurement capability. The values are calculated using tunable diode laser spectroscopy. Thus, the measurement takes place without direct contact – only by irradiation of the air medium and the radiation of the tunable laser diode

UAV Solution for Oil & Gas

DJI’s enterprise platforms are best suited for complex tasks and can be used not only to detect gas leaks, but also for visual and thermal monitoring of gas and oil facilities.

This includes pipeline integrity inspections and detection of illegal taps, assessment of the technical condition of fuel and energy facilities (corrosion, rust, defects), topographic surveys and pipeline mapping, construction work monitoring, environmental monitoring of adjacent areas, soil and relief conditions.

The most reliable solutions are the use of a payload and UAV complex: a camera and a laser gas analyzer (or laser scanner LiDAR). In this case, the company saves a lot of resources and is able to quickly solve several tasks at once, from visual imaging to identification of defects, leaks and violations in operation. This, in turn, allows ground crews to promptly respond to calls and take measures to eliminate them.

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