Sky-Futures support development of guidance for UAS inspection

31. March 2016

Raising UAS inspection to the next level, Sky-Futures Support Development of Lloyd’s Register, for a Safe and Effective UAS Application Guide. Sky-Futures worked with Maersk Drilling and Keppel on Lloyd’s Register’s investigation into the safe and effective application of offshore rig UAS inspections.

Sky-Futures was used as the industry standard service provider. The inspections that were made pointed to where technology could be developed and improved in order to maximize cost benefits. The inspections resulted in the capturing of a range of learnings covering: safety, regulatory, technical, data and operational issues, all of which input into the development of the Lloyd’s Register Guidance Notes on UAS for inspection.

“Crucially, the UAS facilitates the application of a screening tool that allows for closer inspections of suspected areas, and for ongoing monitoring over a period of time to evaluate the rate of degradation. This enables operators to plan maintenance and repair in a planned and budgeted, structured way,” commented Helen West, Project Manager at Lloyd’s Register.

“As the leading global UAS inspections provider, Sky-Futures was delighted to work directly with Lloyds Register’s certification team to develop the first iteration of these robust guidelines; to ensure that UAS technology is introduced safely and incrementally into the oilfield,” says Nick Rogers, Co-founder and Chief Regulatory and Training Officer, Sky-Futures.

Download the Guidance Notes

Learn more about the guidance notes on Lloyd’s Register.

Read the two case studies below:

Case study 1: UAS-based flare tip inspection

Flare tip inspection, resulting in speedy delivery of high quality data and specialist analysis. Inspection completed for lower total cost than traditional manual inspection, despite a greater upfront investment.

  • Client: ENI
  • UAS operator: Sky-Futures
  • Operation: Offshore installation, Liverpool Bay
  • Purpose: To set up a monitoring regime for the fixed structure asset flare tip and boom UAS inspection.

Outcomes: LR Project Manager Helen West said, “The UAS inspection delivered some key benefits to the client, which a traditional inspection would not have done. A particular benefit being to minimize, or even avoid, the need for a shutdown, planned or unplanned. With the application of UAS inspection, the technical inspection data received would be reviewed and reported by competent personnel. The report, and an integrity assessment, would outline areas of concern. So the UAS inspection [now] includes the specialist, data interpretation, as well as the data collection; this is an addition to the service as the use of drones has evolved.”

Helen identified a number of additional benefits to the client. She said, “Although the correct paperwork needs to be used e.g. ISSOW, method statements, Risk Assessment Safety Procedures, the process was quick and easy to set up. This negated the need of putting men at risk to scale the flare-tip, to confirm the condition of the flare tip and boom chords. The end product delivered were clear images, both video and stills, and a permanent record. The UAS was able to cover large areas, and [besides the inspection of the flare itself, also] provided […] other benefits such as identifying potential dropped objects (PDO) which may have been difficult to spot. Crucially the UAS facilitates the application of a screening tool, which allows closer inspection of suspect areas, and ongoing monitoring over a period of time to evaluate the rate of degradation. This enables operators to plan maintenance and repair in a planned and budgeted, structured way.”

In general there is a significant upside to UAS inspections, there are also challenges to overcome. As Helen explained, “The UAS can capture very detailed data, but it can’t carry out repairs, which a team could. Similarly, it relies on experts to operate the kit, guide it to the right locations/suspect areas, and identify further inspection requirements.”

Furthermore, UAS inspection provides opportunities for economies when viewed as an end-to-end process, the upfront investment can be greater than with a traditional inspection. Helen said, “Operators are sometimes daunted by the initial layout, but this needs to be carefully evaluated against the costs of a traditional inspection, as well as the safety of personnel. Whilst this is likely to vary between applications, it has been our experience that most operators continue to opt for UAS inspection. However, in the current climate it is scrutinized as not essential for some tasks and a ‘nice to have’, so we have subsequently seen a decline of usage in the last 10 months.”

Case study 2: Testing the safe and effective UAS inspection

‘Test and learn’ by Lloyd’s Register with Maersk Drilling, Keppel and Sky-Futures, to investigate the safe and effective application of UAS inspection in offshore rig inspection. Learnings supported the development of Lloyd’s Register Guidance Notes on UAS for inspection.


  • Evaluate the UAS capabilities, safety and effectiveness in offshore rig inspection
  • Investigate and improve inspections and reduce inspection costs
  • Recommend areas of interest and inform technology development roadmap

Scope: The scope was to assess the capabilities of UAS by conducting a series of test cases using an industry standard UAS service provider on a Jack-Up drilling rig owned by Maersk Drilling.

Test cases were devised based on Lloyd’s Register DROPS check lists and other cases created from typical Jack-Up inspection scenarios from Lloyd’s Register knowledge base.

LR Senior Specialist Andy Frankland said. “The Jack-Up Rig had recently arrived in the shipyard for some upgrade work and was in the process of pre-loading dockside when the UAS project started. For this reason, it was decided to start the UAS test & learn by conducting an ‘inspection’ of the exterior of the hull, before continuing with under the helideck. Once the pre-load operation was completed, the jacking leg and derrick inspection would take place.”

Typical process:

  1. Risk assessment, flight & work permit
  2. Multi-party coordination
  3. Toolbox talk and clarification of objectives
  4. Equipment setup
  5. Pre-flight checklist
  6. FPV visuals and secondary views
  7. Clear area for ground take off or hand launch; set emergency landing
  8. On the spot, real time general visual inspection
  9. Battery endurance approximately 15 minutes per data collection flight
  10. Off-site post-processing, hardware/software image enhancements

Learnings and outcomes:

A range of learnings were captured, covering safety, regulatory, technical, data and operational issues: all of which input into the development of the Lloyd’s Register Guidance Notes on UAS for inspection.