Skyports Drone Services and Norwegian energy firm Equinor plan to trial electric drone deliveries to oil installations in the North Sea to demonstrate how on-demand cargo drone services can solve logistical challenges and improve safety and sustainability, says the press release.
Launched in early September, the two-month flight programme marks the first time that daily on-demand drone services offshore have been piloted from shore, with a Swoop Aero cargo drone that flies distances of up to 114km.
Cargo deliveries will operate between Equinor’s processing centre site in Mongstad on the west coast of Norway and three installations in the Gullfaks oil field in the North Sea, as well as between installations.
Skyports Drone Services has already operated flights for the project and scheduled to operate hundreds throughout the trial, carrying spare parts, equipment and care packages.
The partners say uncrewed drone services are substantially cheaper, faster to mobilise, and safer than conventional transportation methods and can fly at much lower visibility, including thick fog.
A key focus of the trial is to explore how the service may be scaled with minimal human intervention. The aircraft are remotely piloted by a small team from Skyports Drone Services at the newly opened Equinor centre in Bergen.
Equinor staff located on the installations have been trained by Skyports Drone Services to load and unload cargo, switch and charge batteries, and safely interact with the drones. They have completed installation 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. During the trial period, Skyports Drone Services opted to deploy the fixed-wing Swoop Aero Kite aircraft by the Australian logistics partner of Skyports Drone Services, Swoop Aero. It has a 5kg payload capacity, range up to 175 km, and can operate in harsh weather conditions, including wind and rain.
In February, Swoop Aero obtained approval to operate beyond Visual Line-of-Sight (BVLOS) in New Zealand, as it prepares to launch the country’s first Integrated drone logistics network in partnership with Te Whatu Ora Health.
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