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Gazprom Neft selects a partner for unmanned deliveries of oil samples from fields

Organised by the Zhukovsky Institute National Research Centre and AERONET — the Association of Operators and Developers of Unmanned Aircraft Systems — a competition (involving Gazprom Neft and drone manufacturers) has been held in the Moscow area to find a partner to develop and deploy techniques for delivering oil samples from remote fields to testing laboratories, by drone.

Competition participants included domestic companies with experience in operating unmanned systems commercially. The core objective of the event was to deliver consignments — vessels containing crude oil samples — from one site to another, with drones (having a maximum take-off weight of up to 30 kg) having to make a non-stop flight of 14 km. All flights were controlled automatically. The specific conditions inherent to working at fields — limited space for take-off and landing resulting from infrastructure facilities and adjacent forest — were recreated as part of the competition.

All drones were assessed by a special committee, on the following criteria: cargo capacity, fastening security, and speed. A further criterion in determining the winner was strict adherence to the specified take-off trajectory and flight altitude, as well as sufficient fuel or battery charge to cover a distance of at least 30 km under actual field conditions.

Following this competition Gazprom Neft can now choose a partner to start developing a technological solution for the unmanned transportation of oil samples at the company’s Priobskoye field. Based on the outcomes of pilot tests, a decision can then be made on deploying such technology commercially.

Gazprom Neft is testing unmanned technologies to improve efficiency, environmental friendliness and safety in oil production. Using drones will save time in delivering oil samples to chemical-analysis laboratories from remote fields, and eliminate the need for traditional land transport. Delivering oil samples by air takes about 15–30 minutes, which, going forward, will make it possible to optimise the time spent in analysing samples, and the number of laboratories involved, at oil fields.