Toru Tokushige, CEO, Terra Drone Corporation spoke to Pipeline Magazine’s Julian Walker about the vital role drones can play in the energy sector and partnering in Saudi Arabia
Following its formation in 2016 how quickly has Terra Drone grown?
We started in Japan in 2016 and currently have more than 25 branches in Asia, Europe, Americas, Africa, and Oceania. If you go abroad after you have succeeded in Japan, it is natural that there is already a big competition. My conclusion was that the only way to win in the world is to grow simultaneously in multiple regions. Therefore, we decided to find out promising companies that were already doing drone inspections and surveying, and follow the business model of JV with them. It’s great to be able to quickly build relationships with customers and share their latest drone technology and know-how across the group. In order to do business around the world, you need to understand promising industries like oil and gas or power, and at the same time, you need thorough knowledge of issues like local drone regulations and the culture of countries. I will continue to focus on understanding all these issues.
How important is the oil and gas market to the company’s portfolio and what are the major advantages that drones can give to businesses?
Oil and gas is unarguably the most important market for us. This is because there is high efficiency achieved from using drones in the sector. By using drones, Terra Drone Brazil was able to complete an FPSO inspection in under an hour. Conventionally, the same inspection would have taken a whole day. Further, the number of workers was reduced to half (2 people). If you are working with ropes and scaffolds, it takes a lot of time to set up, and the tank must be stopped during that time. Also, there is a danger to the workers at work in high places (including off shore). I feel that it is very meaningful that drones can solve these problems. In addition, it is good to be able to create detailed inspection reports by identifying corrosion, cracks, and damage in the tanks based on high-precision image and video data taken by drones. The data can be accumulated by conducting regular inspections, so there are great benefits for customers.
How receptive has the energy industry been to the adoption of drone technology?
I think the energy industry has not been as receptive as we would have liked. We are already doing some projects with major oil companies, and some subsidiaries already have multi-year contracts with major companies. But there is a lot of scope still left. By continuing to use drones for inspections, we want to make the market understand the efficiency of drones and become a pioneer in expanding drone technology.
How is the Middle East partnership with Saudi NDT Corrosion Control Services progressing and is the region an important one for Terra Drone’s expansion plans?
Since the Middle East is the world’s center for oil and gas, I think success here is essential to success in the world. This company is actually amazing. Since its establishment in 1975, it has a history of providing non-destructive inspection services for over 40 years in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. They have over 800 employees and notable customers including major oil companies like ADNOC, Saudi Aramco, Kuwait Oil Company, and Oman Oil Company. In addition to the inspection know-how they have built, it is beginning to be recognised in the Middle East that we can provide better inspection services using drone technology gathered from more than 25 countries. Thanks to that, many orders have already been received, so I am really looking forward to the future of Terra Drone in Middle East market.
What is the next step for the industry in the use of drones and other unmanned surveillance vehicles?
Currently, we are focusing on industrial fields such as oil and gas, powerline, GIS, mining, etc., and these data are being accumulated. In the future, we would like to use this data for the development of AI software that can perform faster and more accurate analysis. Finally, we would like to conduct business in the B2C direction, such as logistics and flying cars (delivery of goods and transportation of people). As the world’s leading drone service provider, we want to deliver advanced technologies to the world.