Drone developers seek answers to finding methane leaks

Houston Chronicle:
The next frontier in drone technology isn't necessarily figuring out how to deliver a takeout meal in 30 seconds or less.

Huge quantities of natural gas get leak out of pipelines and drilling sites each year. Identifying and fixing those leaks could mean big profits, but so far it has proven immensely difficult, even testing Silicon Valley's wherewithal.

RELATED STORY: Infrared cameras reveal hidden air pollution from oil and gas drilling

Right now twelve drone and other technology developers are competing in a contest to see who can build the most effective device to find methane leaks, in a contest staged by the Stanford University Natural Gas Initiative and Environmental Defense Fund.

"Leak surveys are traditionally carried out by vehicle or by foot, which can be inefficient and dangerous to utility workers," said Michael Passaretti, a program manager at ULC Robotics, one the companies competing in the contest.
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Dones can be very effective at photographing sites but sniffing out gas leaks will require some research and development.  The upside is that if they can figure it out it can make the pipeline and oil and gas business more efficient and that has been the key to US growth in recent years.

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