UK-based startup FlyLogix, an operator of inspection drones for the offshore industry, says that it has completed the longest-distance civilian drone flight in Britain – a shore-launched inspection of an unmanned offshore platform. Flylogix's Condor fixed-wing drone took off at Blackpool and flew a 50 nm round trip to Centrica’s DP3 gas production platform, located in Morecambe Bay in the East Irish Sea. The aircraft obtained infrared imagery of the facility, removing the need to deploy staff.
The time savings will help Centrica, which is prioritizing the refurbishment of its holdings in the Morecambe Bay. The firm recently announced that it is spending $80 million to renovate nearby production platforms DP6 and DP8; the company says that its investments will give it access to an additional three billion cubic feet of natural gas from the formation.
The Telegraph reports that Flylogix had to obtain special permission from Britain's Civil Aviation Authority to fly the drone beyond visual sight, a practice that is ordinarily prohibited. A human pilot in Blackpool controlled the aircraft's movements and kept it under a legal flight ceiling of 400 feet.
“This is a major milestone for FlyLogix as we showcase the significant benefits of our long range offshore drone service, and ultimately demonstrate the future of offshore inspection and logistics," said FlyLogix chairman Charles Tavner. "We are grateful for the support of the CAA, Centrica, Blackpool Airport and other air space users, to ensure the success of this record service."
Drone inspections are taking off in the offshore industry, as they can shave hundreds of man-hours of labor off of the process of checking for corrosion, cracking and other signs of degradation. Drones are beginning to gain traction in the world of commercial shipping as well, where they are increasingly being used for tank inspections and as an aid for class surveys.