Skyports Drone Services and Equinor launch North Sea delivery trial
Skyports Drone Services is trialling oil rig drone deliveries in the North Sea with Norwegian energy firm, Equinor.
The two-month flight programme, launched earlier this month, marks the first time that on-demand drone services offshore have been piloted from shore. Using Swoop Aero’s highly-automated cargo drone, which flies distances of up to 114km, the trial sees cargo deliveries between Equinor’s processing centre site in Mongstad on Norway’s west coast and three installations in the Gullfaks oil field in the North Sea.
Skyports Drone Services has already operated dozens of flights for the project and is scheduled to operate hundreds more throughout the trial, carrying anything from spare parts and equipment to care packages. Early project results have been positive and Skyports said “highlight the ease with which deliveries could be extended” to include additional installations.
Alex Brown, director of Skyports Drone Services, said: “This project with Equinor proves that drone delivery can offer a safer, cost-effective, more sustainable alternative to conventional transport methods in offshore environments. The offshore energy sector is perfectly placed to benefit from drone deliveries due to the inherent time sensitive nature of working offshore, as well as the extreme remoteness and ruggedness of operations. We are currently exploring how we can expand this groundbreaking work into adjacent sectors such as offshore wind and ship resupply.”
A key focus of the trial is seeing how it can be scaled with minimal human intervention. The aircraft are remotely piloted by a small Skyports team from Equinor’s ROC in Bergen. The aircraft fly automatically with remote pilots overseeing the duration of the operations. Equinor staff located on the installations have been trained to load and unload cargo, switch and charge batteries and have completed installation side activities for all flights conducted to date.
Skyports Drone Services has worked with Avinor and the Civil Aviation Authority of Norway to secure flight permissions.