Norwegian oil and gas company Equinor has for the first time had a drone fly from the mainland to a production platform in the North Sea, over a distance of no less than 80 km. On board the drone was a spare part for a lifeboat. According to Equinor, the test clearly shows the possibilities of drones in the offshore industry.

Unmanned helicopter The

pilot flight was carried out by Norwegian drone operator Nordic Unmanned. The drone in question concerns a Camcopter S-100 by Schiebel. This is remote controlled helicopter weighing more than 100 kg. The drone achieves speeds of up to 150 km/h and can carry up to 50 kg of payload.

In total, the drone covered a distance of 80 km, at an average flight altitude of 5,000 feet (about 1,500 meters). The flight lasted over an hour. On board the drone was a 3D printed atomizer that is part of the diesel engines in the lifeboats. This essential part has not been available for a long time and is therefore recreated by modern techniques.

The drone’s destination was the Troll A platform, one of the largest oil rigs in the world. The platform is 80 km away northwest of the Norwegian coastal city of Bergen.

Leading the way

“Development is fast and we believe that drone technology could change the way we operate, both below and above the sea surface. Equinor aims to be at the forefront of using new technology on the Norwegian continental shelf,” said Arne Sigve Nylund, Equinor’s executive vice president Development and Production Norway.

“Drones can strengthen safety, increase production efficiency and contribute to lower CO2 emissions while drilling for Norwegian oil and gas. Drones will also play a role in shaping new energy solutions in the Norwegian territory,” continues Nylund.

Trial in the Netherlands

The experiment is reminiscent of a pilot flight that was carried out earlier this year in the port of Rotterdam. Then, with the help of a drone, a small package was flown to the Pioneering Spirit, which was temporarily anchored. That flight was carried out with a DJI M210. This involved a much smaller distance: 2 km as the crow flies.

(cover photo: Ole Jørgen Bratland/Equinor)