Live Radio Tower Inspections with Cape Aerial Telepresence

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It’s a typical day in the onshore oilfield.  Lease operators are out on country roads driving between production and transmission facilities to check meters and gauges connected to wells, tanks and piping runs. Drilling teams are moving new rigs into place while preparing to move others down the road to the next pad site. As new facilities are completed, technicians add instrumentation and install network connections to enable remote monitoring and control.

Back in the operations center, an alarm appears on the big screen. Communications is down for an entire section of production facilities. While the IT team temporarily reroute the data traffic and restore communications to those facilities, they suspect that a critical radio on one of their towers is damaged. Rather than wait days for a team of tower climbers, they send a message to a nearby lease operator, who has a small drone in his truck.

The lease operator is only about a mile away, but with the layout and speed limits on the lease roads, it could take almost 45 minutes to reach the base of the tower in his truck. Instead, he quickly places the drone on the ground, opens his iPad and starts an aerial telepresence session through the Cape Operator app. An IT engineer from the operations center then logs into Cape on his laptop and remotely flies the drone over to the tower for a close-up view of the radios. The lease operator waits by his truck and keeps an eye on the drone while the engineer focuses directly on troubleshooting with a high-zoom camera.  

After just five minutes of moving around the tower with the drone, controlling it with a mouse and keyboard, they spot the issue. Lightning from a recent storm has blown through a surge protector, damaging the cables and data ports leading into the suspected radio. Photos and video from the flight are instantly uploaded to the cloud asset management system, where they can then be tagged and sent to the radio manufacturer for warranty support. Now, having identified the most likely cause of the outage, IT can create a work order for a contractor to go out and replace the equipment.

Because they were able to get the right eyes on the equipment without having to send an engineer to the field, the time to problem resolution is slashed significantly.

Enhanced incident response is just one use case for drone telepresence. Once the equipment replacement is complete, engineers can request another flight session to inspect the new installation and gather imagery to update the asset management database.   

The same drones used for surveying, mapping and inspections can be used when an incident occurs, compounding the value proposition of one of the most versatile tools being used in the oilfield today. Drone operations don’t have to be expensive and complicated. Pilots don’t have to be expert inspectors. By leveraging the right tools, enterprises can enable their existing teams to collaborate remotely -- from headquarters to the field -- using aerial intelligence.