Drone developer, fiber optics firm partner to monitor pipelines

By Luke Geiver | May 07, 2019

As shale oil and gas production continues to increase across the U.S., pipeline gathering and takeaway capacity used to the move crude oil or natural gas is providing an opportunity for drone-based service providers and fiber optics tech developers.

This week, SkyX systems, a unmanned aircraft systems provider announced a partnership with E’Kabel on a plan that will use drones and fiber optics placed inside a pipeline to monitor for pressure changes, leaks or disruptions along pipeline corridors.

E’Kabel provides fiber optics that monitor temperatures and vibrations.

“Corrosion, human error, mechanical failure and unauthorized digging are the most common cause of pipeline incidents,” according to Didi Horn, CEO of SkyX. “A majority of pipelines are in remote areas that can take extended periods of time to reach and inspect. We’re not only helping companies react to incidents much quicker and more effectively, we’re able to help them be proactive by providing access to meaningful data.”

As part of its operations, SkyX has developed a unique vertical-take-off-and-landing drone that doesn’t require launching strips or on-site piloting. The system includes mobile stations that can be placed along the route of the pipeline to allow the drone to recharge after flights of up to 65 miles or roughly 90 minutes. To ensure the UAV can capture the appropriate data, the drone can fly at speeds as low as 40 mph while reaching max speeds of 75 mph.

Earlier this year SkyX opened an office in Houston. Sean Carnahan, a 20-year oil and gas veteran, was appointed team lead at the site. Since February, the team in Houston has been able to perform demos of its system. 

In September last year, investors infused nearly $10 million in a Series B round of funding.

E’Kabel is a global firm serving the energy industry with fiber optics and other products.

The parntership has not said if they have worked on any projects to date.