A pilot's license of a different sort

Business News

drone operators

Think about it: during a site emergency, a drone camera can provide emergency responders with unparalleled information about an accident, release, spill, or other unplanned event. Even in non-emergency situations, such as ongoing project work or a major turnaround, a drone camera offers a birds-eye view of a site without having to engage a plane or helicopter.

More and more MPC organizations and locations are utilizing drones, but it isn’t as simple as it sounds. A drone must be operated by a trained, FAA licensed pilot. Also, utilizing a drone in air space around certain locations must also be approved by the FAA.

The Galveston Bay refinery launched its drone team in late 2017 with four members from its ES&S department, one of whom was a licensed pilot. Since then, the drone team has grown to eight members, seven of whom are now licensed pilots. Today, the team utilizes the latest technology in cameras with a built-in monitor on the remote. Others also have the ability to view the camera images using special goggles or from any HDMI-output viewing device.

“The drone team meets an average of once a week, training at Bay Street Park and the 29th Street parking lot,” says Noel Silva, a GBR security supervisor who does double duty leading the drone team. “Additionally, we hold training sessions once a week for team members who are studying to get their pilot’s license. We currently have four new recruits that will start this training process.”

Thus far, drone footage has documented both turnaround activity at the refinery and new units during construction. “We think of ourselves as additional site operations support,” adds Silva. “We are now able to deliver live video feed to the Emergency Operations Center, a feature which could prove invaluable in an emergency.”