Monitoring pipelines from the sky



Our last post discussed one of the first stages in work management: determining the portfolio of work that must be executed, and drafting a roadmap that will take this portfolio from initiation through completion. By completing these steps, you have achieved two key goals: creating a dataset and documenting how this data begins to interact. Reaching these milestones is an ideal time to consider one of the most important parts of work management– the selection of the software systems and tools used to continually manage three critical areas. These areas include:

Pipeline operators are required to meet federal and state safety regulations, with regulatory frequency depending on oil or gas lines. The presence of High Consequence Areas (HCAs) and the Potential Impact Radius (PIR) created from the product in the pipeline must be determined. It is mandatory to classify each segment of pipeline by the risk it poses to nearby population, and without the proper tools and information, a defensible assessment of that risk may be difficult to determine. It also becomes a challenge to monitor changes on and around each segment, with systems that can contain up to 50,000 miles of pipe.

After categorizing each segment of the pipeline and assessing the risk of impact, certain types of maintenance and inspections activities must be performed, depending on the risk. By utilizing Aerial Patrol to collect spatial data and integrating GIS data collection systems, pipeline operators can take a proactive approach to decrease delays or minimize increased costs.


Patches of dead vegetation or any other disturbance near the ground, exposed pipeline not designed to be above ground from recent rainstorms or floods can indicate of changes in surface conditions and/or potential pipeline issues. Third-party threats, such as construction or agricultural activity, can also occur anywhere along the Right-of-Way without warning or notification. This remains one of the greatest risks to pipeline safety and the surrounding population and structures. Consistent and accurate inspections are needed to mitigate these hazardous scenarios. However, pipelines can be challenging to inspect from the air because they are almost always underground to prevent corrosion and to minimize expansion and contraction due to fluctuating temperatures. Thick tree cover along the right of way can also hinder aerial inspection by limiting the line of sight.

So, as an inspector, how can you monitor the health of your pipeline with system-wide variables such as these? New technology such as advanced sensors and high-resolution cameras/LIDAR are helping to improve patrol and record-keeping capabilities. Spatial data collection tools that can be used in fixed- and rotor-wing aircraft, and combined with GIS based data collection systems, provide an array of features and benefits to aerial inspections. As aerial patrol moves beyond the most basic visual observation, effective management and interpretation of the increasingly complex streams of data quickly become the critical factor.

Helpful Tip: See how G2-IS created GIS solutions for a mid-sized natural gas and electric company and a municipality in these case studies.


Implementing GIS can counteract the reduced ground visibility from greater aerial elevations with superior HD cameras that have expansive zoom and facility tracking capabilities. Further, the very high resolution of these imaging systems enables higher altitude patrolling, which is a direct contributor to enhanced flight safety. G2 Integrated Solutions (G2-IS) in-flight systems help to better detect potential threats to pipeline integrity through automated pipeline tracking using pre-programmed GIS data with targeted visual overlays of public data through an augmented reality system. This provides a detailed observation of ground activity that can be analyzed post-flight or real-time from the cockpit.

Not only can this system log aerial observations, it can be programmed to detect threats and erosion of the infrastructure, forecast vegetation growth approaching the corridor, and can provide data in real-time via control rooms and ground teams. This aerial GPS data collection can be accessed by mobile devices as well, allowing the operator to make proactive decisions immediately.

G2-IS doesn’t just focus exclusively on data collection. We have developed the backend software systems for data analytics and archiving as well. This collected data goes through a custom automated system which allows quick access to relevant and up-to-date reporting and change detection. This multifaceted database allows clients to make more informed decisions in less time. Contact us today to learn more about how your pipeline monitoring could benefit from our advanced aerial patrol services.

Workflow: Virtually all work in a portfolio must pass through certain stages. Whether it’s as simple as “work is initiated, work is complete” or complex flow through many stages and workgroups, any work management tools must be able to incorporate this workflow and can adjust to the changes that will continually occur.

Work Status: It is vital that all stakeholders have visibility of the status of a project. It is also critical that a work management tool provides a method for validating status prior to transitioning between stages. Flexibility should provide the tracking of cost, schedule, and scope if desired.

Resources: A robust work management system will allow the definition of required resources on a project, available resources to be assigned, and a system for assigning them.

Additionally, for a manager to successfully execute a work portfolio, the selected work management system needs to take work through nine key stages.

Intake Schedule Assign
Receive Execute Record
Measure Audit Report


Selecting and utilizing a work management system can be a challenging endeavor. Many organizations find themselves cobbling together a variety of existing tools (scheduling software, dispatch systems, spreadsheets, even magnets on a whiteboard) to try and effectively manage these three areas. This often results in “Key Role Syndrome”, placing one person in the challenging position of aggregating the information from these sources, updating and analyzing it, and regurgitating it to stakeholders in an assumingly useful format.


This may work smoothly at first, but what happens when that key person is out sick? Or quits? Or when the “master” spreadsheet has ballooned from three users and ten columns to 10 users and 70 columns? Such systems are not sustainable and have the risk of bringing a program to a screeching halt with one small hiccup. So what’s the solution?

There are a variety of options, ranging from off the shelf software to supplement current systems, to custom-built enterprise systems that touch every aspect of your organization. This decision should not be taken lightly. The selection of the right system(s) and tools can cure “key role syndrome” and evolve your work management teams into high-performing, flexible, and responsive groups that readily handle challenges.


When evaluating and selecting the solution, there are several key points that should be considered:


In general, a work management tool needs to be accessible to all stakeholders that are involved in the work. Web based and cloud based solutions that are functional on any office or mobile platform provide needed flexibility when integrating with existing infrastructure. Additionally, the ability to define roles and views, with customizable interfaces, aids in presenting the most pertinent information to various users. Operations that take place in areas with limited connectivity should also be considered.


Software and systems that require substantial training can often discourage users and result in slow adaptation. Taking the demographics and technical capabilities of the current workforce can guide selection. Just as importantly, the system you choose needs to easily integrate with existing software and infrastructure. Keep in mind that two things continually change and evolve in most organizations: data sources and who controls them. Avoid solutions that cannot adapt to these changes.


Organizations often search for the cheapest, quickest solution, failing to consider long-term impacts. With proper planning, a work management system can be selected that will continually evolve and adapt to changing requirements. Whether it is a solution that is sourced from a vendor, or one that is developed in-house, this will likely require support to implement and maintain. An organization needs to determine the level of support needed to ensure the selected systems will meet future needs. A modular concept that can provide expansion and contraction with lower initial cost is often ideal, and inevitably allows rapid response to changes.


Far too often, emphasis is placed on the system, and not the people using it. Success or failure can hinge on the response of the end user. The selection process should always involve the end users to fully understand their needs and the shortcomings of existing systems. It’s not uncommon for a selection team to go into the process expecting to replace an expensive enterprise system, and coming to the determination that one or two additional tools will resolve current issues. This often happens after well-structured end user interviews.

Paying attention to these key points will aid in selecting a work management software, such as G2-IS’s Operations Manager, that will fill a key need in your company with an eye towards long-term success. Contact us today to learn more about how this software plays a critical role in high performing work management organizations.