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Flying Robots Could Change The Resource Business (Seriously)

I usually avoid commenting on new technology.

Over the years I've learned a simple lesson. Even the people who are expert in start-up tech usually don't know whether a new development will work out. My abilities as a non-techie to make investment judgements here are therefore far afield.

But one item is worth a mention this week. A move to start using aerial robots in the oil industry.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it is approving the testing of commercial drones for the oil industry. Allowing petroleum companies to begin testing such devices at sites in important oil states like Texas, Alaska and North Dakota.

The idea is to use such drones for inspecting remote sites like pipelines. A job currently done by manned flights, which cost orders of magnitude more than a drone would to do the same job.

This is far from a futuristic pipe dream. In September, major oil producer ConocoPhillips conducted a one-off test of a drone over the Chukchi Sea along the north coast of Alaska. The 40-pound unit was launched from a ship, and flew for 36 minutes to test its sensors and navigations systems.

It appears that the industry now wants to make wider use of such technology. A move that could create big cost savings for companies active in remote areas.

Beyond this, I've long believed that drone technology is extremely useful for the wider resource business.

With these units now becoming affordable and accessible, why not use them in mineral exploration? Drones are capable of flying lower than manned aircraft--and so would be ideal for taking photos over swaths of remote ground, looking for signs of mineralization. It's possible they could even run some basic geophysical tools. Perhaps even geochemical analyses like PIMA clay spectrometry.

This could be ideal for areas that are difficult or dangerous to access. I can think of a few steep slopes and landmine-prone terrains where I would have appreciated having a flying robot to do my work.

Here's to the prospectors of the future,

By. Dave Forest




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