Up, Up, and a (New) Way To Facilitate Compliance: Drones and Their Capabilities as Compliance Tools
Advances in drone technology and construction have allowed more industrial applications to take off. One application for which drones may be particularly useful is health, safety, and environmental compliance. Similarly, drones may help facilities comply with site security regulations.
Drones, a generic term for unmanned aircraft, have been used in military applications for decades. More recently, however, advances in drone technology and construction have made the devices more accessible. These advances and increased accessibility have allowed more commercial and industrial applications to take off. For example, certain retailers are considering ways to efficiently use drones to make residential deliveries, and drones can help developers plan and manage construction projects and monitor progress.
Drones as HSE Compliance Tools
One application for which drones may be particularly (and increasingly) useful is health, safety, and environmental (HSE) compliance. Petrochemical complexes and refineries, for example, are vast and complicated operations subject to myriad HSE requirements. Many pieces of equipment and processes spread out across a facility require environmental monitoring and inspection pursuant to those HSE requirements but are located in hard-to-access areas. Indeed, leak detection and repair ( LDAR) requirements may apply to a flange or valve on a pipe rack 30 ft off the ground. Rather than having a worker undertake the necessary prerequisites to safely conduct monitoring at that equipment, a drone could be deployed instead. Likewise, a drone could be deployed in response to a process-safety incident to assess the scene (e.g., identify the source of the release, evaluate emissions) and facilitate a safer response.
In a similar way, drones may help petrochemical facilities and refineries comply with site security regulations. Laws such as the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) and the Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) generally require subject facilities to implement plans and protocols to ensure site security. These plans might involve surveillance at site boundaries or around critical infrastructure, and drones may provide an efficient way to perform such surveillance.