The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) has launched a statewide drone inspection team to help inspectors quickly respond to and inspect sites that are unsafe or inaccessible during emergencies such as fires, flooding, and other natural disasters. Drones can also assist in situations, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, where they provide an alternative to in-person inspections.
The RRC’s first drone emergency response was April 28 to an area that could not be physically inspected because the road to the site was under water.
A licensed RRC pilot launched a drone and determined a possible source of release using aerial and thermal images. The operator was contacted to immediately remediate the site.
“Our very first flight mission in Reeves County is a great example of how drones will enable inspectors to do their jobs quickly and safely in emergencies, which ultimately helps further protect residents and the environment,” said RRC’s Executive Director Wei Wang. “Whether it’s through information technology or other new tools, the Commission has always been looking at ways to enhance our operational efficiency. With drones, our inspectors can now immediately monitor well blowouts, oil spills, and other emergency incidents, and quickly cover large areas of ground in responding to those situations where time is of the essence.”
Nineteen inspectors have received remote pilot certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Beginning this summer, SMRD will use drones for emergency responses and inspections. Drones can document the progression of mining in active operations which can change drastically from month to month. Aerial images will also help in the oversight of reclamation activities in previously mined areas.
The RRC is also a member of the State Emergency Operations Center. The agency’s drone fleet can be a resource in helping state emergency response by providing aerial views of inaccessible areas.