UAV Surveying & Mapping

See how Microdrones UAV systems inspect 1000's of kilometers of pipeline in Southern China.

In Southern China, Chinese energy company Sinopec manages over 6,000 km of oil pipeline and relies on Microdrones Systems for daily inspections.  To date, Microdrones systems have flown over 40,000 km of pipeline, saving Sinopec time and money while also reducing the risk of injury to their workers. In this video, we take a close look at the Microdrones workflow and process that is being deployed by Sinopec in Southern China.

Microdrones Asia Case Study Summary

The 6,000 kilometers of Sinopec pipeline are mostly in mountainous areas, with high-voltage electrical towers, trees and other difficult terrain which brings various difficulties to manual inspections. Using drone inspection can make up for the shortage of manual inspection. The drones fly along the pipelines in a series of stages, with 8 to 10 flights completed every day to inspect 80 to 100 km of pipeline. Personnel address any problems found during the inspections.

 “We have pipelines with a total length of 6,000 kilometers,” explains Peisong Zheng, of the Liuzhou Management for Sinopec Sales. “Manual inspections were used to manage the pipelines in the past with a traditional approach that required a lot of manpower, equipment, time, and money. Now we use drones and advanced technology to improve the efficiency of pipeline management."

 “The areas we patrol are in forests and grasses,” says Wu Yang, Sinopec Sales (South China) Company, Liuzhou Mgmt, “and the weather is hot at this time. Sometimes we even meet snakes, insects, and ants. In general, manual inspections are tough."

That’s why Sinopec selected the Microdrones Integrated System to assist with the inspection process. In 2015 they started inviting drone companies to field test systems and inspect their pipelines, including Microdrones. After a two year development and testing phase, the team launched a large-scale drone-based pipeline inspection operations with the md4-1000 from Microdrones in late 2017. To date, these systems have flown over 40,000 km of pipelines, saving the company time and money while also reducing the risk of injury to its workers.

“We were very surprised when we were informed with the requirements for this project, explains Yang You, Sales Representative, Microdrones China. “Sinopec told us that they have 6,000 kilometers of pipeline in total for inspection, and they require inspections done by their own staff instead of third-party companies. They required very frequent flight to cover huge areas. As far as we know, there is no such drone operation case in the world. This is a big challenge for our products and services. However, during the demonstrations and on-site test, Sinopec gradually realized that our drone is the best and most stable drone on the market to meet their operational requirements.”

As far as we know, there is no such drone operation case in the world. This is a big challenge for our products and services. However, during the demonstrations and on-site test, Sinopec gradually realized that our drone is the best and most stable drone on the market to meet their operational requirements.

Yang You, Sales Representative, Microdrones China

Harley Ho is the Director of Marketing for Microdrones China and explains how the companies’ reputation for reliability helped Sinopec select the Microdrones Solution. “Microdrones has been in China for many years,” Ho says, “and it is known for its reliability, good quality, and services in the market. That’s the reason why Sinopec chose Microdrones.

Xiaozhi Li, Lead Payload Integration, Microdrones China, agreesand helped ensure the Microdrones system was able to provide multiple solutions. “Sinopec has very diverse requirements on the applications,” explains Li, “so we offered several solutions based on the Microdrones reliable flight platform the md4-1000. We provided an EO gimbal solution for daytime inspection to help detect any illegal construction activity along the pipeline. We also provided loud hailer and tethered systems so that in the event of an emergency, the customer can use the tethered drone to monitor for a long time and can also use the loud hailer for dispatching. Sinopec recognizes that we are not just selling drones, we can provide them with a complete drone inspection workflow.”

Working with the Microdrones Integrated Systems, the Sinopec Team has developed a very efficient method for pipeline inspection. “Our pipeline and the daily inspection route is relatively long," says Zheng. “We have to use relay flights to complete the mission and divide our pilots into two groups. The first group rushes to point C after taking off at point A. The second group rushes to point D after receiving the drone at point B, and so on in a similar fashion. When the weather is good, we can make 10 to 12 flights a day with this flight mode, covering about 60 to 80 kilometers of pipeline."

Since launching the program Sinopec has purchased 10 microdrones and distributed them to various offices. Sinopec wants to gradually replace manual inspection with drone inspection. “In the more than two years of use, Microdrones has proven to be very reliable,” says Zheng. “If any issues occur, the manufacturers always helped us solve them quickly. We have a lot of places that were previously inaccessible by manual inspection. Now they are fully covered by drones, and the efficiency of the inspection has increased.”

Microdrones has been in China since early 2009. In the past ten years, we have more than 400 customers in China have been using Microdrones Integrated systems in industries such as surveying, marine inspection, petroleum and electric power inspections, fire protection, security, and more. According to You, “It can even be said that China’s commercial drone market was pioneered by Microdrones. Our drone system is a productivity tool, not a toy. When customers use our products, they can save costs, improve efficiency, and create profits. Only then are drones truly valuable to the users.”

Sinopec plans to continue using Microdrones Integrated Systems for pipeline inspection while also exploring other applications where the drones can help create better efficiencies. “Next, we will further develop the applications of drone technology in pipeline management,” Zheng explains. “We will conduct daily inspections at night to improve the protection of key areas such as high-risk spots in high-impact areas. We are also developing a drone data management platform to intelligently analyze the data collected by the drones, which will help us to investigate the hidden dangers in the pipeline.”

Li knows that the Microdrones systems are the right tools for the job. “Geological disaster prevention is also one of the requirements for UAV pipeline inspection,” he says. “For this reason, we will provide mdMapper1000 and mdLiDAR1000 professional surveying solutions. The solutions can help non-surveying professionals like Sinopec to obtain professional aerial survey data in a simple, efficient, and quick way.”

For more information on how you can incorporate Microdrones Integrated Systems into your workflow, CLICK HERE, to speak with one of our friendly representatives.