Drones take to the North Sea in search of oil

Drones are to be the latest tools in the hunt for new reserves of North Sea oil. Academics at the University of Aberdeen are working in collaboration with a group from the University of Bergen, to use the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to examine rock formations and improve the understanding of subsurface reservoirs.

The latest development is part of a project called "Safari," which was started in the late 1980s to create detailed models of rock formations. 24 oil firms are supporting the research.

Prof John Howell, a geoscientist at the University of Aberdeen, said:

Given that two wells are often several miles apart, predicting what the rock layers in between the boreholes look like is a huge challenge.

To solve this problem we look at similar rock units which occur in cliffs above sea level and we use the drone to make extremely detailed 3D models, which we can then adapt for the subsurface.

The advantage of the drone is that it allows us to collect large volumes of data from otherwise inaccessible cliff sections in remote and often dangerous places.

The drone used in the project costs around £10,000 and is remotely operated using radio controls and carries two cameras which allow it to collect stereo, 3D imagery.

The computer stabilisation and multiple motors mean the drone is incredibly stable and provides a more accurate map of the rock formations.