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A new multifunctional drone from Gazprom Neft will replace small aircraft in geological prospecting

Gazprom Neft has successfully completed testing Russia’s first ever multifunctional airborne geological prospecting unit or “drone”. This drone carries out several types of geophysical investigations — previously undertaken solely using aircraft or on-ground equipment — at once. Cutting-edge equipment makes it possible to halve costs in comparison with piloted aircraft, as well as speeding up geological prospecting activities 50-fold in comparison with surface techniques.

The multifunctional airborne unit can handle multilevel magnetic surveying, shallow electrical prospecting and aerial photography, as well as monitoring fieldwork using visible-spectrum and infrared video footage. A number of geophysical surveys of this kind has been undertaken in Russia for the first time, using drones. Avoiding the use of manned aircraft in geological prospecting works will allow Gazprom Neft to significantly reduce the time and money spent on such activities.

This drone can survey around 200 square kilometres per day, whereas on-the-ground exploration would cover barely four square kilometres in the same time. Drones are effective in almost all of the climates under which Gazprom Neft operates, including temperatures below —40°C, winds of up to 20 metres per second, and up to 5 mm precipitation, either rain or snow. Surveys of remote license blocks involving drones are undertaken without any direct human involvement — also increasing operational safety.

Gazprom Neft began using drones in multilevel magnetometric aerial surveying in 2019.

Large-scale testing of drones at the Salymsky-5 license block in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug-Yugra in early 2021 proved their effectiveness on other investigations.

Full-scale deployment of drones will reduce the costs of investigating new assets, will allow a wider range of geological prospecting operations to be undertaken from the air, and will provide a full range of data for field development, even under the climatic conditions of the Arctic.

“The use of drones in geological prospecting is one of those breakthrough technologies that fundamentally change typical ways of working. They’re faster, cheaper, more efficient and more environmentally friendly than other methods. Successful testing has already proved that some prospecting work can, already, be undertaken using drones. These technologies will not only significantly optimise our business processes, but will also be in considerable demand on the international market.”

Alexei Vashkevich
Alexei Vashkevich Director for Technological Development, Gazprom Neft

“The opportunity to reduce costs and improve efficiency in geological prospecting has huge potential for influencing project economics. Applying new technologies — which Gazprom Neft consistently invests in developing and rolling out — is a priority tool in improving quality and speed in gathering information for decision making. Given the ever-increasing remoteness and inaccessibility of license blocks, we already see drones as an essential instrument in exploration.”

Yuri Masalkin
Yuri Masalkin Director for Geological Prospecting and Resource Base Development, Gazprom Neft

“Gazprom Neft is developing, testing and deploying multiple oil and gas industry digital technologies, for the first time: this is also the case with unmanned aerial (drone) systems. Enhanced drone functionality — which can now perform a whole range of geological prospecting investigations — has given rise to a unique synergistic effect: there has been a manifold reduction in lead-times and costs, and survey accuracy is greatly improved, as is the data collected; all of which is significantly improving overall effectiveness in surveying and investigations. The project team has managed not only to develop a unique technological solution, but also to put in place the prerequisites for its commercial deployment and roll-out within Gazprom Neft.”

Andrei Belevtsev
Andrei Belevtsev Chief Digital Officer, Gazprom Neft
Notes for editors
* This multifunctional airborne geological prospecting unit was developed by the Gazprom Neft Science and Technology Centre, Gazpromneft-GEO and Gazpromneft-Digital Solutions.