Designing an Oil Pipeline Inspection Drone

Project Info


Oil pipeline monitoring is a quite sensitive job and to some extent dangerous. Therefore, they should be done with a high precision to distinguish any small leakage. In order to do such inspections, special robots or drones are designed and manufactured.

One of our costumers requested the design for a special drone with the following requirements

  1. Its duty was the inspection of oil pipes, in particular, those who had been installed in the sea
  2. It was to report any leakage of any other deficiencies in them


The main challenges included

  • Accuracy in distinguishing the points of leakage
  • Long flight time up to 9 minutes
  • Robustness in terms of working in different temperature and environmental conditions
  • Flight stability on the fly for the detailed filming
  • Good maneuverability to face such conditions as fire or explosion


The design team reviewed the request and its requirements and finally came up with a design that met all the above requirements. Some of the steps included the followings

  • In order to increase the accuracy of the inspection through the inspection drone during the oil pipeline monitoring, a special high resolution-low weight camera was used in the design
  • Special camera shock absorbers were also used to make the drone capable of taking clear videos from the target pipes.
  • The seating of the battery was designed according to the level of propellers. This initiative highly increased the stability of the drone during its flight.
  • A Gimbal structure was used to protect the drone from any possible collision during its close inspection of the pipes.
  • In order to increase the flight time up to 9 minutes, two opposing parameters had to be compensated. A higher power battery would have a higher weight, while a higher weight would result in more power consumption for the flying drone. Therefore, using a special software, the curve of the flying time vs weight was drawn and based on that the proper weight was calculated. Using this figure and the net weight of the drone, it was possible to calculate the weight of the battery and consider a high power battery. The calculations showed that we had to use a 5,000 mAH battery that is normally regarded as a high weight battery. However, in practice, it turned out to be the best choice in agreement with the calculations.

Final result:

The engineering team made the design in about 1.5 months and the final solution was tested and simulated using different simulation techniques and software such as Solidwork’s CFD analysis and a simulation software. Some of the specifications of the final design were the followings:
Weight (without battery): 1,235 gr
The diameter of the Gimbal: 33 cm
Building material: Carbon fiber
The design was then successfully built using carbon fiber and with a proper motor and it came out to work as expected and according to the original request.

M. J. Haines
March 19, 2018
Mechanical Engineering