Chevron employs new style of drone for pipeline surveillance

The AiRanger Drone


A new type of drone is taking to the skies on an important mission: inspecting oil and gas pipelines. Working together, Chevron and American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI) recently made history as the first companies permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use uncrewed aircraft systems (UASs) in airspace shared by crewed aircraft. Chevron will use UASs to remotely monitor its vast network of pipelines.

The new aircraft from AATI, called an AiRanger, can cover more ground than crewed aircraft and detect potential problems more safely and efficiently.

Typically, aerial monitoring is done by an aircraft piloted by one person while another looks out the window to determine if there are any hazards or threats that need to be addressed. These planes move at more than 100 miles per hour.

While these techniques have their place, they also come with challenges. Namely, a reliance on human operators who are prone to things like fatigue and subjective evaluations. This option is better suited to shorter distances and time periods.

The AiRanger can provide services beyond pipeline monitoring for the community


For longer flights, the AiRanger can fit the bill. While a UAS is a drone, it’s larger than the small quadcopter drone you may be used to seeing. And with a wingspan just over 18 feet, it’s also not quite as big as a full-sized plane.

In fact, the AiRanger flies farther and for more hours than either, while providing real-time reports on any potential threats to the pipeline.

Here’s a look at some of the differences between the three types of aircraft; listing their weight, power source or gas usage, and average flight times.

illustration of a drone


under 55 pounds
battery pack
35 minutes
illustration of an unmanned aerial system


220 pounds
8 gallons aviation fuel
12 hours
illustration of a light human piloted airplane

human-piloted planes

2,000 pounds
90 gallons aviation fuel
under 5 hours

With less fuel used to fly longer distances and more hours, the UAS has the added benefit of being a lower carbon emitting tool than a human-piloted aircraft.

Source: Chevron release