A petroleum refining company Equinor and Nordic Unmanned, has successfully carried out an advanced long-range BLOS (Beyond Line of Sight) unmanned flight to supply a 3D-printed part to a massive oil rig. The delivery was made from Mongstad Base to the Troll A offshore platform in the North Sea in late August.
The flight test was carried out with a Camcopter S-100 drone, developed by an Austrian company Schiebel, that achieved the range of 62 miles (100 km) each way over the North Sea to complete its journey. The Camcopter S-100 helicopter drone is a highly proven unmanned helicopter with an empty weight of 110 kg, a payload capacity of 50kg, and with a typical endurance of up to 8 hours.
The drone flight was lasted for about 1 hour at an altitude of approximately 5,000 feet (1.5 km) above sea level. The part that was transported during the operation was a nozzle holder for injecting diesel fuel into the lifeboat engine at the Troll-A offshore platform.
In addition to the cargo delivery, the helicopter drone also made a close visual inspection of Troll A from outside the 500-meter zone. During its test mission, it also carried out a search and rescue operation together with the standby vessel at Troll A.
The Troll A platform is a condeep offshore natural gas platform located in the Troll oil and gas field, 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Bergen. It is 472 meter high, has a dry mass of 656,000 tons, and is one of the most complex engineering projects in history. It is the largest concrete platform ever moved offshore, and it is the highest man-made object moved by humans on the surface of the earth.
This is a world-first in terms of full-scale offshore drone delivery from shore to an active oil and gas installation. Aviation history could potentially open up a path towards safer, cheaper, and lower-emissions servicing of these massive offshore operations.
Camcopter S-100 drones can be used to carry out inspections and observations of the technical condition of offshore and onshore facilities. Equipped with an advanced camera, they can be used in search and rescue operations to locate people who have fallen into the sea or for early detection of pollution at sea. They can check wind turbines, deploy equipment that will be used by personnel performing maintenance and repair, capable of delivering critical parts quickly.
“The operation marks the beginning of a new chapter within unmanned logistics. The technology is proven and robust enough to implement on a large scale and reduces the risk cost and environmental footprint drastically. The good collaboration with Equinor, Schiebel, Avinor, Norwegian Communication Authority, and Norwegian Civil Aviation has made it possible to take this project from the end of the feasibility study to the end of the operation in less than four months. I’m honored to have led this project for Nordic Unmanned,” said Pål Kristensen, business unit manager, logistics and robotization, for Nordic Unmanned.