SwRI uses Drones to Automate Methane Leak Detection

A new leak detection system developed by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) will be able to detect methane leaks in real-time using a drone. The project is part of a collaboration between SwRI and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to develop automated inspections of oil and gas facilities.

The Smart Leak Detection System/Methane (SLED/M) technology was developed with funding from the NETL.  The technology can detect small methane leaks by pairing passing optical sensing data with AI algorithms.The SLED/M technology also reduces false positives and detects leaks that may otherwise go unnoticed by optimizing algorithms to reliably detect issues under a wide range of environmental conditions.

“After successfully developing SLED/M for stationary applications, such as fenceline monitoring of midstream facilities, we are advancing the technology to perform autonomously from drones,” said Maria Araujo, a Manager in SwRI’s Critical Systems Department in a press release.
The new funding from the NETL will allow SwRI to develop machine learning algorithms to detect methane leak, collect data and test midwave infrared cameras on drone flights. 

“Drones and camera configurations present unique challenges because they capture data at different heights, distances and speeds,” Araujo continued. “This funding enables development and testing to adapt the technology for commercial aerial inspections.”
Image Courtesy of SwRI,
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