Equinor has claimed a “world first” with the use of a drone to deliver lifeboat system parts offshore, in what could be a sign of future North Sea logistics operations.
The firm carried out a 50-mile drone flight from Mongstad in Norway to the Troll A offshore field in a test that could “transform the way we operate, both under and above the sea surface”, it said.
The Schiebel-manufactured drone travelled at 5,000 feet during the hour-long flight, “the world’s first of its kind, where an actual freight operation was conducted over a lengthy distance to an operating offshore installation”.
A similar operation was carried out in May over a shorter distance at the Port of Rotterdam to the Pioneering Spirit construction vessel.
Improved use of drone equipment has been touted as one of the next steps in decarbonising the oil and gas sector, reducing the need for helicopters and other freight transport which produce emissions.
Arne Nylund, Equinor’s executive vice president for development and production Norway, said: “Drones could reinforce safety, boost production efficiency and contribute to lower CO2 emissions from Norwegian oil and gas.
“Drones will also play a role as we shape new energy solutions on the Norwegian shelf.”
The Camcopter s-100 model has a cruising speed of around 93miles per hour, able to carry weight of up to 50kg.
The flight was also used to test the drone’s other functions, such as using a high-powered camera to inspect the platform and for search and rescue operations.
Drones have not yet been used on the UK sector for delivering equipment, although are already in heavy use for tasks like maintenance inspections and monitoring methane emissions.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is currently working on an “innovation sandbox” project with firms including Total, FlyLogix and the Oil and Gas Technology Centre to test and prove that drones can be used more widely in open airspace.
FlyLogix, which last year sent a remote-controlled plane for a 115-mile round trip to BP’s Clair platform West of Shetland for methane monitoring, said the project is key to scaling the benefits of drones in the sector.
Earlier this month, the company said that success on that front could mean drones being mobilised much more quickly for work such as moving equipment, the “search” in search and rescue, and other applications.