Camcopter S-100 helicopter drone makes world-first oil rig delivery
Aviation history was made off the coast of Norway recently as a Camcopter S-100 drone rotorcraft delivered a 3D-printed part to an oil rig after a 100-km (55-nm, 62-mi) flight over the North Sea, potentially opening up a path towards safer, cheaper and lower-emissions servicing of these massive off-shore operations.
The array of North and Norwegian Sea oil platforms built mainly by Britain and Norway are among the most impressive engineering projects of the late 20th century. A vital part of the world's energy economy, they are also very hazardous to operate, having to endure some of the worst weather and sea conditions on Earth.
To service these platforms, the oil companies operate the world's largest fleet of heavy Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) helicopters. These carry two million passengers a year and some of these machines were built especially for North Sea work. Each of these trips is very expensive and dangerous, which is why the least popular part of employee training is suiting up in survival suits and being subject to a simulated helicopter crash in a tank of ice-cold water.
It's a small wonder, then, that the oil companies are taking a hard look at unmanned rotorcraft to take over some of the cargo flights and other missions. According to Nordic Unmanned, the use of drones is not only safer but reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 55 times and lowers operating costs.
The recent test took place on on August 27, when a Camcopter S-100 from Equinor and Nordic Unmanned took off from Mongstad in Vestland, Norway, and completed the beyond-line-of-sight mission to the Troll A production platform.
The Schiebel Camcopter S-100 can carry a payload of 110 kg (243 lb). It has a maximum speed of 220 km/hr (140 mph), an operating ceiling of 5,500 m (18,000 ft), and flight endurance of eight hours. The test flight went through conventional shared airspace and is the first to an active oil and gas installation.
In addition to the cargo delivery, the helicopter also made a visual inspection of Troll A from outside the 500-m (1,600-ft) exclusion zone and conducted a simulated search and rescue operation with Troll A's standby vessel.
The flight is also notable because Troll A is itself significant. Situated in the Troll oil and gas field 80 km (50 mi) northwest of Bergen, Troll A was built in Norway and is 472 m (1,549 ft) high and weighs 683,600 tons (1.2 million tons with ballast). When it was towed to its present position, it became the heaviest and tallest manmade structure ever to have been moved on Earth.
"This marks the beginning of a new chapter within unmanned logistics," says Pål Kristensen, business unit manager, logistics and robotization, for Nordic Unmanned. "The technology is proven and robust enough to implement in large scale and reduces the risk cost and environmental footprint drastically. The good collaboration with Equinor, Schiebel, Avinor, Norwegian Communication Authority, and Norwegian Civil Aviation, has made it possible to take this project from end of feasibility study, to end of operation in less than four months. I’m honored to have led this project for Nordic Unmanned."
Source: Nordic Unmanned