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Voice-controlled drones for the oil and gas industry

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

Drone flying against a dark background

To gain an advantage in today’s global environment, oil and gas companies have to adopt advanced AI/robotics solutions that will optimize their operations. The goal of undertaking such an approach is to reduce the costs, increase the safety and provide their operations teams - with information essential to make intelligent decisions in real-time.

Voice-controlled drones

The quadcopters are quite new smart technology and they were introduced in the oil and gas industry as precise, highly maneuverable, and cost-efficient tools for carrying out inspections and monitoring tasks, as well as asset management. Through the increased usage of voice-controlled drones (VCDs), oil and gas companies can automate their inspection procedures and findings, improve the safety and wellbeing of employees, and lower the typically high costs related to manual inspection and analysis of oil and gas systems.

The drone's movement is controlled by spinning its four propellers at different speeds. All the common directional movements of the drone can be done by voice-control: hover, left/right movement, forward/backward movement, and yaw (turn rate). The drone is moving in accordance with the voice commands from the user which selects appropriate throttle, pitch, yaw and roll values accordingly. In cases when there is a loss in transmission the VCD might take some time to respond to the signal. Aside from the voice-controlled method, drones can be controlled by a classic RC method that includes an RF module. The balancing and leveling condition is controlled by the flight controller with the help of on-board sensors, i.e. accelerometers and gyroscopes, and the sensor’s output is used for smooth leveling.

Some teams utilized a hidden Markov model for speech recognition with voice adaptation in order to control the VCD. Their approach is based on a speech-decoding engine, and corresponding ROS code, such as in the Gazebo simulator. The speech decoding works with the CMU Sphinx knowledge base tool, to control altitude, direction, yaw, and landing. However, the CMU Sphinx is no longer supported and is considered inferior to modern neural network-based approaches.

Other researchers have used the Nuance speech recognition service. They created a hands-free VCD control with voice commands, to actuate the VCD drone, developed with the DJI Mobile SDK for Android. The proposed architecture was composed of Bluetooth hands-free for voice capture and the speech commands were translated and evaluated using regular expressions. The regular expressions were divided into three groups: the first group contained words to move the drone in any direction, the second group - words to also move the drone in any direction but with an established amount of distance, and the third group - words to take-off and land the drone. This implementation is limited to use with a Bluetooth hands-free device connected to an Android smartphone and can only control DJI manufactured drones.

Onvego has developed its custom speech-recognition engine which can be cloud-based, or in offline mode – installed on Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Android and iOS operating systems. Also - the dictionary of recognized words is larger and can be custom-adjusted. Thus – it offers much greater portability and usage flexibility. When a spoken command is given – it is recognized by the Onvego speech engine and is RF-transmitted to the VCD (via remote control/ mobile device), so the drone moves accordingly.

Application in the Oil and Gas Industry

Voice-controlled drones (VCD-s) can be applied for many diverse functions, including indoor inspection procedures to more complex applications, such as checking the physical condition of pipelines. Oil and gas companies can gain multiple advantages by employing drones in their daily operations.

VCD-s for inspection purposes

The oil and gas companies can highly reduce hazards in the workplace by utilizing drone’s functions and features. Some drones possess ultrasonic sensors and hi-tech visual equipment, e.g. infrared cameras and thermal imaging devices, to perform up-close inspections of oil and gas assets. So they can uncover structural defects, system malfunction, or possibly hazardous situations (in storage tanks and pipelines) - without the need for human involvement. By getting instant information from VCD-s, companies can check the current status and predict the possibility of a breakdown.

Materials handling and delivery

Research teams over the world are currently exploring the possibility of VCDs in delivering products (parts) for multiple consumer-oriented and mission-critical industries. VCDs – when given a voice command - could convey shipments (parts) to production platforms in proximity. The size and weight of loads may affect the effectiveness of using drones in such cases, but in reality – it is an alternative to the current means of transporting smaller loads.

Distant monitoring of equipment

The companies already use drones to remotely check and monitor the equipment and current infrastructure, including all company assets (tanks, pipes etc.). VCD-s are able to provide a comprehensive view of all objects in the field operations, keep an eye on the development of new facilities, and detect trespassing on pipelines, tanks, and other valuable company property. Also, drones equipped with a radio signal receiver – can perform an efficient inspection of fully-automated oil and gas equipment located offshore.

Emissions control

The oil and gas industry is intended to lower methane emissions in the global fight against global warming and climate change. To do that, companies are acquiring a wide spectrum of high-tech sensing devices that can either be permanently mounted on equipment or installed on drones to gather real-time data. For example, some companies invested in a research effort to create laser-based sensors (mountable on drones) that can identify methane leaks throughout their systems.

Response in emergency situations

In case of an accident or a natural disaster, VCDs can provide a broad aerial perspective of developments occurring on the ground. Real-time images produced by drones can also assist in the estimation of the consequences of oil leaks and fires. That can help companies to manage emergency response and convey resources appropriately while ensuring workers’ health and safety.

Workplace safety control

Safety is a major concern in all segments of the oil and gas sector, and VCDs enable companies to eliminate the risks associated with restricted spaces or other unsafe locales. In certain cases where humans need to be present, the effective use of drones will minimize the time needed for human participation. Also, inspections by VCDs can lessen the need to obtain restricted entry permits from a company’s safety and environment departments.

Cost savings

Inspections conducted by VCDs allow oil and gas companies to better plan and allocate their human and financial resources. Besides decreased operating costs related to interruptions in production, VCD inspections lower the number of human working hours required to conduct investigations. Drone-performed inspections involve fewer employees, possibly just a single engineer and a drone pilot. This possibility to conduct quicker inspections will save working hours that can be used to perform other duties.


Voice-controlled drones can perform high-reliability tasks in risky environments. They can do monitoring and inspection of facilities, emissions control, material (parts) handling etc.

Onvego voice technology solutions, mounted on mission-critical platforms, can enhance your daily operations and increase efficiency, and safety while reducing costs. With our voice recognizing tools - the functionality of your current systems will be improved, and you will be able to perform smooth and reliable actions. Feel free to contact us for a quick demo on how to improve your daily operations by using advanced drone technology.

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