Photographer: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

One of the World's Biggest Oil Companies Tries Drones to Save Lives

  • Sky Futures awarded 3-year contract to inspect Eni rigs
  • Technology aims to improve worker safety, efficiency

A British drone operator has won a contract to inspect rigs operated by one of the world’s largest oil producers.

Sky Futures Ltd. will deploy drones at Eni S.p.A. facilities as part of a global three-year contract. The company expects airborne analysis and visualization technology to help improve safety by forecasting issues before they occur.

Safety on Eni rigs came under focus last year when a worker was injured on the company’s Goliat facility in the Barents Sea, shortly after unions had expressed concerns. That was followed by a fire on an Eni offshore platform in the Republic of Congo, which resulted in the death of a crane driver and injured five workers. The company said in July that injury frequency during the first half of 2016 fell 11 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Sky Futures co-founder Chris Blackford declined to comment on the value of the contract, but said the Middlesex, U.K.-based company is in discussions with other oil producers.

In addition to their safety benefits -- traditional methods of inspection can require workers to dangle from cables -- drones are also more efficient. Humans can take eight weeks to gather the same information that Sky Futures’ machines capture in as little as five days, Blackford previously said.

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