NUAIR and partners to conduct UAS research for gas utilities

By Patrick C. Miller | April 02, 2015

A consortium of 19 natural gas companies in the U.S. and Canada will conduct research with the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) Alliance to study the feasibility of using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for surveys and pipeline inspections.

NUAIR will work with Pictomety, Rochester, New York, a subsidiary of EagleView Technology Corp. Located in Bothell, Washington, EagelView provides aerial imagery, data analytics and GIS solutions. The project funded by NYSEARCH/Northeast Gas Association—a consortium of natural gas companies in the U.S. and Canada—will focus on research, development and demonstration.

“The research program came from the interests of NYSEARCH member gas utilities to perform routine inspections and surveys of facilities from an aerial vantage point along with the ability for rapid response in the case of emergency situations,” said Joseph Mallia of NYSEARCH/NGA.

Using UAS imaging over gas pipeline infrastructure, the team will perform research experimentation in approved areas. The research will use UAS equipped with high-resolution cameras and possibly methane detection devices to enhance pipeline safety. The testing will include flight plan creation, protocol development and effective field implementation.

Pictometry conducts research with UAS platforms for remote sensing applications, including utility and infrastructure inspections. The company will work with NYSEARCH and NUAIR to select potential flight areas and obtain the required authority for each research location from the Federal Aviation Administration through NUAIR.

“It can be dangerous for people during these inspections, especially under bridges and other difficult-to-reach areas,” Mallia said. “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.”

Noting Pictometry’s strong partnership with NUAIR, Chris Barrow, EagleView CEO and president, said, “We are focused on the research and eventual creation of UAS platforms that increase safety for numerous industries while capturing high-resolution imagery that can not only produce a large amount of data but can easily fit into current workflows. Creating a total solution from start to finish is the key and the reason this type of research is so essential.”

Based in New York, the NUAIR Alliance is a not-for-profit coalition of more than 70 private and public entities and academic institutions operating and overseeing UAS test ranges in New York, Massachusetts and Michigan. Headquartered at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York, NUAIR manages one of six FAA-approved UAS test sites in the U.S.


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