In the last few years, we’ve seen drones turn from a futuristic fantasy into readily available devices some of us may want to get for Christmas. Drone use has increased dramatically, but the growth does not come exclusively from consumer usage – many businesses are investing in the technology as well. You won’t need to look far to see the trend in action, as the Polish oil and gas giant PGNiG has decided to take the plunge. Over the next five years the company is looking to spend around a billion Zloty on B+R, including drone-related innovations.

PGNiG is certainly not afraid of new technologies – you may have seen our previous posts about their ventures into the world of Blockchain, as well as their startup accelerator InnVento – so their investment in drone tech does not come as a surprise. PGNiG has been already using drones in mapping gas resources, but also believes that the technology could greatly improve the security of their infrastructures by steadily supervising the pipelines used in the company’s oil and gas mines.

These [pipelines] work under enormous pressure, so it’s important to constantly check [their] tightness. We can’t allow ourselves to miss any dangerous event, such as an oil spill. Currently, our employees are tasked with these checks, and they need to conduct them on foot. In the future, the use of drones could change that, and increase the number of such checks – explains Krzysztof Potera,  head of the PGNiG Geology and Hydrocarbon Production Branch.

PGNiG has commissioned the development of two types of drones suited especially to their needs. The first one, called Varys, is a hybrid drone designed especially for oil spillage detection. In order to detect potential leaks, Varys drones were originally going to be equipped with infrared vision and a thermal imaging camera which would analyse the nearby flora and detect changes indicating a leakage. As a way to improve the accuracy of the readings, developers have decided to equip the machines with methane detectors instead. Varys hybrid drones have a flight capability of four hours at a time, at a speed of 80 km / h, while their telemetry data can be transmitted over a distance of up to 40 kilometers.

Additionally, PGNiG has invested in a completely different type of drone to integrate into their infrastructure. Unmanned aircrafts called Kolibers will be used for producing maps necessary for gas and oil exploration. At a shorter flight capability at 2.5 hours, Koliber drones will be able to transfer data in real time.

While the technology requires a large investment at the beginning, PGNiG’s experts reason that the introduction of the machines will not only bring multi-million savings in the long run, but will also increase the efficiency of the company as a whole. Drones can also be used to monitor over 180 thousand km of natural gas distribution network that runs across the whole country.

If you’d like to find out more about PGNiG’s involvement in drone tech, make sure to join us in Krakow on June 13th – 14th for Impact’18. With PGNiG as the event’s partner, you’ll have a chance to catch up on the project’s latest developments. Register now!