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Gazprom Neft tests an ultra-long-range drone for exploration geophysics

Gazprom Neft, together with Russia’s DIAM-AERO, has successfully tested a new-generation extended-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or “drone”), to be used for geophysical works, in the Leningrad Oblast. This device can cover a distance of 1,200 metres — which is 10 times more than models currently used in multi-level magnetic surveying at oil and gas fields. That distance and duration means operations can be undertaken, highly effectively, in remote areas with no surface infrastructure.

Gazprom Neft as, already, successfully utilised UAVs with a range of up to 150 kilometres for non-seismic geological exploration. Using these, the company has been able to obtain initial information on bedrock structure, which facilitates further planning for subsequent stages of field exploration. The developers of this new aerial device have been able to offer brand new technological capabilities for the industrial use of UAVs consistent with the requirements of Gazprom Neft’s UAV Technology Centre and the company’s Science and Technology Centre.

This ultra-long-range drone is made of special composite materials, which do not give rise to any disturbance during investigations. The device can carry a payload of up to five kilogrammes, meaning various technological operations and various kinds of measurements can be undertaken, simultaneously. Added to which, this new development can be used under the challenging climatic conditions of the Arctic and other regions of the Russian Far North. The developers plan to equip a new model of this UAV with a vertical take-off and landing system, which will allow the device to be made compatible with any take-off and landing areas, including the roofs of cross-country vehicles.

Using unmanned aircraft comes out about 2.5 to three times cheaper than similar operations using manned aircraft. Gazprom Neft plans to use these to further improve the efficiency of its investigations, both offshore and in other inaccessible locations, over the next few years.

Gazprom Neft has identified more than 70 different scenarios for using UAV systems, altogether, including in airborne territorial laser-scanning, cargo transportation, and in monitoring construction and infrastructure status. Two thirds of the company’s pipelines, in fact (more than 7,000 kilometres) are now partially or completely controlled using aircraft-type drones.

“Unmanned technologies have, already, proved their effectiveness in many kinds of research. Using these, we plan to cut costs and speed-up early-stage exploration, while maintaining safety levels and the quality of results. The possibility of using a range of UAVs at this level concurrently suggests the time spent on fieldwork could be almost halved.”
Alexei Vashkevich
Alexei Vashkevich Director for Technological Development, Gazprom Neft
“The development of unmanned aircraft with flight times and ranges comparable those in classic aviation is another step forward in implementing drone-based solutions and increasing the efficiency of the company’s production processes. The device tested significantly surpasses similar solutions in exploration geophysics currently available on the market in terms of its benefits and features and will, going forward, make it possible to abandon the use of manned aircraft in magnetometric surveys of new license blocks completely.”
Mikhail Korolkov
Mikhail Korolkov Head, Gazprom Neft Digital Technology Centre