Evaluating Unmanned Aerial Systems at Chevron Oil Spill Drill in California
Two men in yellow vests holding a small remote-controlled plane and screen.
Launching a Precision Hawk fixed wing Unmanned Aerial System to image the shoreline during Chevron's oil spill drill. (NOAA)
Black squares inside a square of PVC piping on the ground.
Shoreline targets set out to mimic oil pads for the UAS to detect. (NOAA)

SEPTEMBER 17, 2015 -- OR&R participated in the U.S. Coast Guard Oil Spill Prevention and Response Area Contingency Plan drill that was hosted by Chevron at their Richmond, California, refinery September 16–17, 2015.

As part of the drill, personnel evaluated the use of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and an Aerostat (tethered hot air balloon).

The focus for the evaluation was on the rapid acquisition of high resolution imagery and full motion video over shoreline areas and real-time or near real-time serving of this imagery to the incident command post.

The aim of this work is to assess how UAS and aerostats can be used to replace or augment existing visual observation methods that require people flying in planes and helicopters during an oil spill response.

In the future, UAS could support applications such as incident response, oil mapping and tracking, Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT), and Natural Resource Damage Assessment.

During the drill OR&R explored the potential role of UAS in oiled shoreline surveys, which may prompt future discussions with the local Area Committee.

In addition, OR&R examined the timing of data transfers from field equipment, such as UAS, through cell phone networks and specially deployed relay networks, as well as processing times for geo-referenced products to be incorporated into an incident's common operational picture, such as NOAA’s online mapping tool ERMA.

Industry participants included Trumbull Unmanned, Inland Gulf, Aerovironment, Persistent Systems, and 2d3/InSitu.

For more information, contact Michele Jacobi or Jordan Stout.

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