General Electric is developing drones that are able to sniff out methane emissions and gas leaks, something that could help stamp out future leaks faster than currently possible. The technology has been proven necessary by several high-profile leak disasters in the recent past, and will help meet an EPA mandate to find and stop leaks wherever they occur. The drone is being developed under GE’s “Project Raven” moniker, and is indicated as a way for the oilfield industry to operate more efficiently.
The drone is aimed at the natural gas and oil industries, which have experienced big budget cuts and the subsequent layoffs and efficiency efforts that come with that. Speaking to the “efficiency” part of the equation is GE’s Project Raven helicopter drone, which has been demonstrated as capable of sniffing out gas leaks half a mile apart, as well as finding methane emissions in affected wells.
While it isn’t clear at this point how much money Raven could save the industry, it will make things considerably more efficient, which GE aiming to have Raven methane inspections be three times faster than human inspections.
The upcoming iteration of GE’s drone will feature half a dozen helicopter blades that measure 21-inches in length, according to Bloomberg, which says the drone itself will weigh less than 20 pounds and be able to travel up to 50MPH for up to 40 minutes at a time. The drone will be outfitted with sensors that deliver real-time data back to the operator.
The drones may prove useful for more than just leak detection, though; the industry sees uses for such drones that include things like inspecting refinery stacks and evaluating the condition of mechanical devices.