Technology Report 2022

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Drone-Enabled, High-Precision Magnetic Mapping Technology for Buried Pipeline


Following several years of R&D supported by major utility and energy companies along with leading research labs, Skipper NDT has developed a technology to map buried metallic pipelines using a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The innovation is based on the physical principle of magnetism combined with a powerful suite of patented algorithms to determine, within an inch precision, the 3D position of buried structures in addition to their depth of cover. Several proprietary patented algorithms process different parts of the magnetic spectrum on the right-of-way to provide a precise positioning of the pipeline.  It can be especially useful in environments where on-the-ground mobility is a challenge such as rivers, rocky and/or steep slopes.

  • Skipper NDT’s solution consists of a UAV-agnostic hardware system and software that filters noise from magnetic field data, automatically acquire and process magnetic information, and then utilizes an algorithm to deliver precise pipeline positioning information.
  • The pipeline geolocation technology is particularly helpful for troublesome environments, such as rivers and mountainous slopes, and in test cases was able to reveal an abandoned facility and compromised pipeline mechanical structures.
  • Field applications also include out-of-straightness assessment in case of geohazard events.
  • The Skipper NDT technology was validated by major operators under various configurations.  Facility diameters ranged from 3 to 47 inches and included bends and elbows, different soil types, and pipeline products (water, oil, gas).

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