Panhandle Pilot
Flying an aircraft to detect pipeline leaks or integrity risks is a big challenge. Capturing the details associated with the issue, communicating those details back to the ground, and managing the associated information over the long term is a completely different challenge altogether.

In the last year, we at GISi have had many conversations with organizations associated with Aerial Pipeline Patrol.

As we have talked to pipeline integrity managers, IT leaders, pilots, executive leaders and other stakeholders involved in ensuring pipelines operate in a safe and reliable manner, we have identified some consistent challenges. Namely, there are common problems faced by those who perform and rely upon aerial pipeline patrols.

Perhaps you too have these challenges. Depending on your responsibility in the aerial patrol process, let me ask you a few questions:

Pilots

  • How often do you get distracted from the safe operation of the airplane because of a cumbersome, unreliable system?
  • How difficult is it to capture and manage aerial ROW encroachment observations?
  • Are you able to send urgent notifications on leaks or critical encroachment activity from the cockpit with a touch of a button?
  • Are you required to spend several hours at the end of your patrol generating reports and consolidating pictures?
  • Is your cockpit cluttered with multiple systems for navigation and reporting?
  • Can you easily capture GPS points for new ROW issues while flying low and fast?

IT Leaders

  • Has the technology available to date fallen short and prevented you from building the system you really want?
  • Have you brought in a third party to build a system, only to have the implementation and adoption fail?
  • Is it a challenge to obtain clear requirements from your business units? Do they know what they want?
  • Have you been unable to effectively incorporate maps into the system interface?

Pipeline Integrity Managers and Executive Leaders

  • If the current pilot patrol system is inneffective, what could it cost you in terms of pilot safety, missed leaks, regulatory compliance, or brand image?
  • How many different report formats do you receive from different aerial patrol service providers? Is not having a standard reporting system a challenge?
  • Are you getting timely notification of urgent pipeline integrity issues?
  • Is information reported from the aerial patrols accurate?
  • Do you have a visual dashboard that intuitively communicates the real-time status of your pipeline integrity program? Should you?
  • Do ground crews have a difficult time finding ROW issues?
  • Is there a good communication link between the pilots and the ground crews? Does the rest of the organization have access to those communications or are they occuring in a silo?
  • Can you easily validate that pipelines have been flown?
  • Can you quickly and effectively respond to regulatory information inquiries?

Perhaps you and your organization have developed an effective system that works well for all stakeholders. If you have, congratulations! You have achieved a signficant organizational accomplishment. Hopefully you will chime in on this article and tell us how you did it.

For others, developing an effective Aerial Patrol system remains a big challenge. Know this, you are not alone. Whether you are a third party aerial services provider, managing pipeline integrity for an operator, or an IT leader who hasn’t had access the needed technology, we consitently talk with groups who are using an Aerial Patrol reporting and management system that they are very unhappy with.

So, what can be done? How about a system that:

  • Utilizes new location-based technology with capabilities not previously available
  • Is reliable
  • Has a map-based interface that moves with the airplane
  • Includes pipeline centerlines on the map so the pilot knows where they are at with respect to the Right-of-Way at all times
  • Utilizes big buttons and simple workflows for ease of use in the cockpit
  • Wirelessly links to cameras so pictures can be easily attached to records
  • Automatically collects GPS coordinates
  • Sends information to ground crews via SMS text, email, or a twitter feed from the system
  • Automatically notifies the correct people based on the pilots location in the pipeline network
  • Integrates into existing work order management systems eliminating the need for time-consuming, post flight reporting
  • Generates intutitive operational dashboards to better run your business
  • Can be easily modified and adjusted to meet changing business needs
  • Provides a standard report format for all aerial patrol service providers

In short, it is now possible to produce an elegant and effective system that meets the specific needs of all your stakeholders. By taking advatange of new location-based technologies, you can solve your reporting and workflow challenges.

So don’t give up. And don’t settle for a system that is unreliable, unsafe, or difficult to use. That system…the one you are using today…it could cost you big.

Keith King is a Business Development Manager for our Private Industry group and a subject matter expert on geospatial solutions for the energy industry. You can connect with Keith on LinkedIn for further insight into this and other technologies.