Shell Launching New Drone Inspection Trial

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Shell is deploying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) under a pilot project focused on inspecting equipment at its Shell Technology Center Houston, one of the oil and gas supermajor’s three global technology hubs.

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Shell’s project, launching in early 2019, will use drones and cloud-based platforms provided by Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kespry, which received funding from Shell Technology Ventures a year ago.

“With the exponential growth of the Kespry aerial intelligence platform, we’re participating in a generational shift of how industrial work gets done,” said George Mathew, CEO and chairman of Kespry, last December.

According to Shell, its Houston tech hub, comprising 44 buildings on 200 acres, employs roughly 2,000 people who are “working to find solutions for current and future energy challenges.” Quoting Jay Crotts, Shell’s executive vice president and global chief information officer, the WSJ report says drones will be able to “inspect different equipment that could be too hot for individuals to be near,” for example, and provide faster and more efficient inspections compared to those of the human eye.

Separately, Avitas Systems, a GE venture, recently collaborated with Shell on a use case for flying a large UAS beyond the visual line of sight, leading to Federal Aviation Administration approval in Loving County, Texas.

“Drones are already an integral part of Shell’s digital operations, with missions flown daily across our global footprint,” said Bruce Culpepper, U.S. country chair for Shell, in October, who added that the approval allowed Shell, in collaboration with Avitas Systems, to fly drones over a larger area of its Permian Basin operations for inspecting oil and gas infrastructure.

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