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Gazprom Neft and Russia’s ITMO University, St Petersburg, become the first organisations in Russia to start training specialists in driverless transport

Gazprom Neft and Russia’s ITMO (Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics) University have signed an agreement on developing a Master’s programme in “Functional Safety of Unmanned (Driverless) Transport” — the first such academic programme of its kind in Russia for training developers and specialists in using driverless transport in the oil and gas industry.

The project is designed for students with experience in IT and machine learning. Master’s students will study disciplines including programming, the principles behind managing cyber-physical systems, and the management, control and architecture of unmanned aviation systems, cars and other unmanned devices, as well as information security and industrial safety in using these.

Thirty students are expected to be accepted onto the Master’s programme in 2020, both through government funding, and on a contract basis. Students will acquire competencies and skills in functional and simulation modelling for unmanned vehicles, and in intelligent control systems for these, as well as learning how to programme transport-system components and analyse devices with a view to these being taken into production and launched on the market.

The Gazprom Neft Centre for Unmanned Aerial Technologies’ and the Gazprom Neft Corporate University’s support for this programme will guarantee demand on the part of young specialists involved in major projects in unmanned transport, and will also allow the university’s cumulative experience to be utilised in implementing and operating new technologies. Test exercises will be developed in the near future, with students allocated to various projects and tasks and working on these together with company employees.

Gazprom Neft’s Digital Transformation Directorate offers students direct work experience, internships and secondments on company projects, as well as the opportunity to take part in “hackathons” and masterclasses. Networking sessions are also planned as part of a career opportunities programme.

“International experience proves the effectiveness of educational programmes developed in collaboration with technology companies and specialist universities. Our project with ITMO is the first programme of its kind in unmanned transport, and will be exclusively devoted to training the specialists we need for our business. Unmanned transport is developing fast, and is already in demand at industrial facilities. Training young specialists will, one the one hand, meet the current hunger for personnel in these digital specialisms and, on the other, create opportunities for talented young developers to pursue their ideas on promising projects, supported by a major industrial company.”
Kirill Kravchenko
Kirill Kravchenko Deputy CEO for Administration, Gazprom Neft
“This programme is the only one of its kind in the country, and is directly focussed on the needs of the labour market. The disciplines taught are directed at developing students’ competencies in the current challenges in R&D for unmanned vehicles. Going forward, our Master’s programme could become a driver for creating an educational and scientific discipline in the functional safety of cyber-physical systems.”
Danil Zakoldaev Dean of the Secure Information Technologies Faculty

Apply for the “Functional Safety in Unmanned Transport” Master’s programme at the following link: https://abit.itmo.ru/program/13348/#passport

Notes for editors

Driverless vehicles

Gazprom Neft successfully tested Russia’s first unmanned freight vehicles at fields in western Siberia and the Yamal Peninsula in early 2020, with modified driverless KAMAZ and GAZelle Next vehicles covering almost 3,000 kilometres of northern roads without incident.

This project confirmed the potential for using unmanned vehicles to improve safety in transporting freight, as well as in optimising supplies to inaccessible regions. The main advantage of unmanned vehicles lies in their unlimited operational integrity. Equipped with an autonomous control system, vehicles do not get tired or worn out, and do not make mistakes — even on challenging routes, and in freezing temperatures, blizzards, or poor visibility.

In comparison with manned alternatives, unmanned vehicles are 50% safer, and can lead to freight-cost reductions of 10–15%. Technologies of this kind are expected to account for the majority of logistics operations in the future, and are expected to be used to their full advantage at Gazprom Neft oil fields in 2021.

Unmanned aviation systems

Gazprom Neft has identified more than 60 scenarios for using unmanned aviation (drone) systems — in high-altitude laser scanning, in freight transportation, and in monitoring infrastructure construction and status. Specifically, two-thirds of the company’s pipelines (running to a total length of more than 7,000 km) are already monitored using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones). These are equipped with photographic and video cameras, as well as thermal-imaging devices, and can remain airborne for up to seven hours, covering distances of up to 600 km and reaching speeds of up to 120 km/hour. They are used in assessing pipeline integrity and the condition of production infrastructure, in identifying unauthorised activities around infrastructure facilities, and in identifying other violations.

Gazprom Neft was the first company in Russia to use UAVs for multilevel magnetometric surveying. This geological prospecting methodology makes it possible to obtain primary information and data on geological structures by measuring the ground-surface geomagnetic field — an essential activity for subsequent local investigations.

Russian-built UAVs, specifically modified for this project, were shown to survey a 100-km area 10 times faster than would be possible on the ground — and two times cheaper than would be the case using traditional methods involving aircraft. This technology makes it possible to undertake geological prospecting surveys of even the most inaccessible license blocks, at any time of the year — being sufficiently light and maneuverable to fly at the required height (from 50 to 80 m) and able to operate in temperatures ranging from −30 to −40 degrees. This technology is expected to be used in investigating territory in the north of Western Siberia, and in the Yamal, Taimyr and Gydan Peninsulas.

Remotely operated underwater vehicles

Gazprom Neft is using remotely operated underwater vehicles in undertaking underwater operations offshore: these make it possible to investigate the seabed and inspect the condition of wells, equipment and parts of offshore platforms. As well as powerful searchlights and video cameras, underwater robots are equipped with mechanical pincers or “claws” allowing an operator to conduct various technological operations, at considerable depths, remotely.