Last week we were reminded of the rare, but sometimes terrible consequences of working in remote places to secure energy supplies. In monitoring the situation unfolding in Algeria I was struck not only by the terrifying nature of the raid on the In Amenas facility, but also at the challenge of getting good information, by Governments, the firms involved and the media. Of course this is a very remote site, in the sands of the Sahara no less, so you would expect difficulties in getting reliable information. That said in these hyper-connected days the vacuum created by rolling news and live blogs on newspaper websites and Twitter was for an observer challenging. For those more closely involved it must have been intolerable.
In the weeks and months that follow BP, Statoil and Sonatrach together with their respective Governments and the wider industry will try to come up with a solution. There will no doubt be many suggestions though there was one thing that might help that occurred to me during a particular bulletin and that was the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Perhaps this has already been done by companies, but I suspect it hasn’t yet. I saw reports that the American military had used an unarmed UAV to monitor the situation at In Amenas. Of course the monitoring capabilities of these machines is vast with their specialist cameras. Their range is also extensive, their cost falling and the risks of using them very low. Will it really be that long before energy firms with remote assets start to deploy these machines?
It first struck me that it won’t be long before the media begin to use them. Watching rolling news over the last few days, there has been scant imagery showing events unfold. Only a few smartphone pictures ultimately made it to our screens. For families affected this must have been something of a blessing, but for bulletin editors used to having footage almost immediately of an event like this, it must have been a challenge. I really wouldn’t be surprised to see the first media drones (UAVs) circling above an unfolding story within a few years time.
So if the media look likely to invest to stay ahead of a developing story, I would also not be surprised to see companies investing in this technology in the coming years.
Of course the situation remains unclear still for some families and we hope and pray that there may still be some miraculous good news to come to those families who have had their lives thrown into turmoil.