From express shipping and delivery to supplying essentials for disaster management, drones are being deployed across industries to solve a multitude of challenges. Yet despite the benefits of using drones for different kinds of monitoring, investments into the technology can be held up by ambiguous regulations.
Drones are increasingly used to inspect infrastructure, but drone monitoring of oil and gas pipelines remains uncommon, despite the fact there are currently over two million miles of oil and gas pipelines around the world. One reason for slow adoption is the varying international regulatory standards. Some jurisdictions ban drones completely, and the technology is tightly restricted in many others.
We were commissioned by our client, a service provider with operations in the oil & gas sector, to assess the opportunity. In particular, they wanted to determine the commercial feasibility of drone-based infrastructure monitoring. We sought to identify any relevant limitations of drone technologies and region-specific regulations that would prevent the commercialisation of new services. If the feasibility assessment advised in favour of the proposed venture, the client wanted to know the easiest markets to enter and create a plan that would establish them as market leaders.
Since our client had no experience with drone technology, they recognised the need for expert assistance in exploring and assessing their plan’s feasibility. We helped the client achieve their goal by selecting the legal and technical experts necessary to evaluate the feasibility of their drone-based service strategy.
We assembled two teams with world-class experts who were selected based on their experience in drone regulations and drone development. Our regulations team assessed the legal standards governing the operation of drones around oil and gas facilities in six geographic regions, determining which three regions had the least restrictive regulations. These three regions were further analysed to determine whether the current regulatory standards were likely to remain favourable in the near future.
The technology team we assembled assessed state-of-the-art drone capabilities and identified the specific characteristics that would make a drone suitable for the client’s target service applications. We also ensured that these technological characteristics complied with the relevant legal standards identified earlier, selecting the markets with more supportive regulations for the proposed monitoring services.
Both teams then investigated the existing competition in this application area, including both drone-based and conventional service solutions. This analysis ensured that our client could avoid competitive areas for drone-based services. Based on the analysis of current drone capabilities and desirable characteristics, we identified the most compelling potential applications and types of services.
A pathway to implementation for drones
Our market and technology assessment highlighted the priority geographical markets for the client. We identified potential applications and the types of services for the client. Our expert assessment offered a clear path for the efficient development and commercialisation of drone-based monitoring services in this sector.