WingtraOne GEN II offers more efficient, higher-accuracy drone pipeline inspection data [case study]

Borton Lawson is a multi-discipline engineering firm, founded in the 80s in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Over the years, it has grown to provide technology-led engineering solutions to a wide range of industries across the US, including a significant focus in the energy, and oil and gas markets. In 2017, the firm launched an in-house sister company, Precise Visual Technologies (PVT), to focus on new tech, including laser scanning and drone data capture.

Key to PVT’s success is a strong focus on research and development, which involves investing in technology that can deliver the right product to high quality standards at the right price point. Having just invested in the latest model of WingtraOne, the GEN II, PVT advanced its capacity to serve oil and gas companies specifically while maintaining and even improving project delivery timelines.

“Our oil and gas clients have realized the value in high-resolution updated aerial imagery,” said James Kovalik, PLS, Reality Solutions Leader at Precise Visual Technologies. “That’s one of the markets where we have been really successful leveraging the Wingtra data.” 

Providing large area mapping of oil and gas pipelines and terminals at a high accuracy and within cost specs that make it beneficial to provider and client.

We had a project for a large terminal client and calculated our proposal using a DJI quadcopter. Prior to the project kickoff, we received our GEN II and decided to use it on this project. This cut our project time in half and significantly improved our deliverables to the client. We flew nine sites across three states in just three days, ranging from one acre to 250 acres.

James Kovalik
Reality Solutions Leader at Precise Visual Technologies 

Cutting the red tape and getting the jobs done right

Of the nine sites PVT flew for their client, several of them were close to airports. Safety and drone regulations around airports are absolutely valid concerns and need to be strictly followed. However, Kovalik said some of the red tape DJI presents when flying in “DJI determined zones” is time-intensive without the benefit of added safety. The WingtaOne GEN II allowed PVT to bypass the DJI zone requirements and safely fly the sites near airports while following all regulations .

“We used the WingtraOne GEN II to get around the red tape of DJI geo zones, which are more restrictive than the current FAA restrictions. In reality, you can fly in many places as long as you follow all FAA guidelines. Our pilots all have their Part 107 license, and they are all very familiar and follow all FAA regulations. Wingtra helped us avoid unnecessary delays, get in there, follow the rules, fly and get out, fast.”

In fact, if you fly DJI within determined zones, you must follow a very specific and flawed process; otherwise, the drone won’t take off. The process would take about an hour to do on-site before flying, Kovalik said, and by this time, the GEN II can finish flying a full site safely and within legal limits. All of this, plus better resolution. 

This has really been our biggest success with the Wingtra. Owners want high-resolution, upgraded aerial imagery for their GIS systems that is accurate. What we’re now able to provide them is on another level, it’s just so much more detailed.

James Kovalik
Reality Solutions Leader at Precise Visual Technologies 

Compare solutions

WingtraOne GEN II

WingtraOne GEN II illustration

Actual project comparison by PVT—weekly project takes 38 minutes

38 minutes illustration

Efficient flight and accurate results that win bids on large-scale projects

Right cost to win bids illustration

Certified, safe and knowledgeable operations, without red tape

Fly WingtraOne GEN II without red tape illustration

DJI Phantom 4

DJI Phantom 4 illustration

Before GEN II this project took 4.5 hours—that's 7x longer

Phantom time comparison 4.5 hours

Time-consuming flight and workflow that costs bids on large areas

too expensive to get a bid illustration

Geo zones mean no take-off and paperwork even if safe and approved

Red tape with Phantom 4 illustrration

The rising demand for drone pipeline inspection data

According to the World Factbook, the United States hosted 1,413,750 miles ( 2,275,210 km) of oil and gas pipeline as of 2014, which was 65 percent of all of the pipelines registered worldwide. To manage this amount of infrastructure for energy companies involves massive amounts of manpower and overhead. That’s why UAV pipeline inspection data is proving more and more attractive, especially when it can be collected efficiently and at a high quality, as is the case with WingtraOne GEN II.

“The biggest thing I can say is that our energy clients want to reduce their site visits,” Kovalik said. “If their office is in New York, they don’t want to go to Houston just to look at a pipe or a valve. They want to be able to hop on the computer, zoom in to some drone data outputs and make decisions. When an owner has multiple sites to manage, high-res aerial imagery can help to greatly reduce site visits.”

For a project in Texas, PVT will survey 71 sites with WingtraOne GEN II. In fact, when they priced it out with their previous DJI solution, the price would have been too expensive. Wingtra’s efficiency made it possible to satisfy margins on both the client and the provider’s side. 

For the 71 sites project, we proposed on it with our DJI. But the price per site was higher than the client wanted to spend. We re-looked at it with the WingtraOne GEN II. In the end, we were able to drop the price per site, win the bid and increase our profit margins while doing this specific job with the Wingtra.

James Kovalik
Reality Solutions Leader at Precise Visual Technologies 

Saving time and boosting ROI— from setup to data processing

For the tri-state project mentioned, PVT covered nine sites measuring about 1000 acres (404 ha) in three days of field time. The accuracy of the data was below 1 inch (3.2 cm), combined with the sharp resolution. Kovalik estimates conservatively that they cut their project time in half with Wingtra for several key reasons. First, ground control.

“With the DJI on a larger project like this we’d put down about 80 to 90 GCPs and checkpoints consisting of a combination of targets nailed down and other traditionally surveyed checkpoints,” he said.

“With the GEN II, since it was our first time using it, we put down about 15 and used them only as checkpoints. The software checked and verified  the points and we can see that we captured very tight data with it.”

During drone-based pipeline inspections, controlled landings and take-offs are key. WingtraOne GEN II’s VTOL design offers this plus the ability to map with expensive, heavier, higher-quality payloads.  To maximize ROI, it carries those payloads much longer when it transitions and flies as a fixed-wing. This was confirmed by PVT.

“With our DJIs, we needed to buy a lot of expensive batteries, and it was necessary to run multiple missions due to flight times; this becomes very time consuming on larger projects,” Kovalik explained. “And the imagery wouldn’t be as good. You go from a 21 MP X4S to a 42 MP Sony, and the quality is obviously much better.”

While you can’t always boil things down to simple variables like flight time or battery life, in the case of GEN II vs. PVT’s previous solution, these factors have made a huge difference in how their projects are now going, including how many and which projects they can bid on. 

WingtraOne GEN II orthomosaic oil and gas

High-resolution and high-accuracy details captured by the WingtraOne GEN II allow oil and gas execs to inspect their terminals and pipelines remotely and on-demand.

The flight time alone has greatly increased our ability to cover more ground. We go from 22 minutes or so with the DJI to 50-some minutes with the Wingtra. You just take off and let it go.

James Kovalik
Reality Solutions Leader at Precise Visual Technologies 

The pandemic, digital worker initiative and drone pipeline data

The restrictions and regulations since the beginning of the pandemic have accelerated a growing need for digital information—from video calling to remote sensing. And in the field of oil and gas, which uses drones for site visualization and pipeline monitoring, this is no exception. In fact, some people, like the team at PVT, are calling the movement what it is: the digital worker initiative.

“We started to see these digital worker initiatives before COVID-19,” said Timothy Schoen, Senior Marketing Coordinator at Borton Lawson and PVT. “People wanting to access their sites remotely to cut down on site time, travel and cost.”

In the case of many industries, the lockdowns were like a catalyst, driving a growing need for remote views of assets. Companies needing location data and regular surveys in particular turned to aerial data collection. And in some ways, a box has opened that would be foolish to shut, because, with advanced systems like the WingtraOne GEN II, the advantages and competitive edges are crystal clear. 

I think COVID has sped up the digital worker initiative. For many of our clients, including oil and gas companies, this is also better for their bottom line. In many cases, the high-resolution data captured from GEN II is allowing clients to see parts of their sites that they may never have seen before. This is how companies make better decisions into the future.

Timothy Schoen
Senior Marketing Coordinator at Borton Lawson and PVT 

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