BERGEN, NORWAY: The commercial impact of utilizing drones in the Norwegian oil and gas industry is emerging as approved inspectors and experienced drone pilots start working together. Successful and impressive tests on rigs, cranes and other constructions at the major Norwegian oil and gas sites of Mongstad, Ågotnes and Hordvik this winter has given the oil and gas industry new trust in saving both costs and time when they need it most.

As new CAA rules for drones come into force in Norway, it was announced that a new professional alliance is entering the Norwegian drone industry. The Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) Managed Services company IRIS Group from Bergen (a Norwegian and UK collaboration), has entered into a strategic alliance with the experienced and fast growing inspection company Fours AS, that recently became a major stakeholder of the new operator Kolos. Kolos comprises of the well established companies Otic AS, K. Lund AS and Fours AS, and will with its NOK 200 million in revenue, be one of the biggest inspection companies in Norway.

“Together we will be able to offer complete inspection services using drones. Drones give us new opportunities to complete full inspections both offshore and onshore, and will save time and money, while also providing significant security gains”, says Kjetil Spurkeland from Kolos.

New kind of collaboration

Drones have been used for inspections, both offshore and onshore, but to date, the services have often been limited to just providing photo and video material that has to be checked by operators or inspectors. IRIS Group and Kolos has chosen a different model for the market. The drone pilot and inspector conduct inspections together, and the inspector controls the drone camera through video glasses, and chooses the course of the inspection so that the critical parts of the target object are focused on.

In this way, the customer receives immediate results of the inspection. In real time, it highlights which parts of the structure are sound and meets approved standards, and which parts require attention and maintenance.

“Of course, in some cases, we find areas we must inspect much closer with people physically, possibly using riggers, scaffolding or cranes, but the time and cost savings achieved with drones compared to always using riggers, scaffolding or cranes for everything is significant”, Spurkeland says.

Thousands of hours of aviation experience

All the IRIS Group operational crews are experienced drone pilots with thousands of hours of experience in international military operations.

“When safety in the rapidly growing use of drones is paramount, we have chosen to focus on the best expertise with thousands of flight hours achieved under the most demanding conditions imaginable. We’ll probably see that this market will be regulated much more rigidly in the future, and we have chosen to be at the forefront by enforcing and applying the most stringent requirements internally based on technical aviation expertise and experience” MD of IRIS Group Nordic AS, Jahn Petter Berentsen says. Berentsen is one of Norway’s most experienced search and rescue operators, and also reveals that the new use of drones in rescue operations, is one of the main focus areas for the company.

Focusing on business, research and development

So far, Inspections are primarily using high-resolution video and photographic footage to achieve results. However, drones are able to carry far more sophisticated sensors and as such provide bigger and better results to the Customer.

“In developing our projects we will look at a number of other airborne sensors for industrial and public causes. Among these are thermographic cameras and sensors, ultraviolet sensors for detection of voltage error, sensors for gas detection, and laser scanners that are used for detailed surface mapping”, says Rune Eikeland, responsible for research and development in IRIS Group. Innovation Norway supports this research and development work, together with a number of other customers and suppliers to the company.

About Fours / Kolos

Otic AS, K. LUND Offshore Lift AS and Fours AS joined forces to create the new company Kolos AS. Kolos is a complete supplier of services related to lifting operations and lifting equipment, engineering, manufacturing, inspection and certification, training and consultancy. The group covers a large part of Norway and aims to continue growing both nationally and internationally. The company has two main bases at Sola and at Frekhaug, north of Bergen. In total they have 110 employees and a turnover of 160 million NOK in 2015 and aim to reach 200 million in 2016.