OTC MOVES AGAIN

Major Houston energy conference once again postponed due to COVID-19

OTC has been delayed again due to the pandemic. OTC/Facebook

This year, thousands of visitors from some 100 countries around the world were expected to descend on NRG Center for the annual Offshore Technology Conference. But like so many major in-person happenings, the event has been again postponed due to the pandemic, organizers announced.

Often dubbed the "South by Southwest for offshore" by insiders, the massive expo had initially been postponed to May 3-6, 2021, as CultureMap previously reported. But on November 16, the OTC's board of directors announced a new schedule: August 16-19, 2021. The move is "due to the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19 and out of the greatest care for the health and safety of our partners, attendees, exhibitors, staff, and community," per a press release.

The OTC board added, in a statement:

In the coming weeks, OTC will be communicating with authors, speakers, exhibitors, and partners to develop new in-person and virtual plans and ensure the conference continues to provide a platform for energy professionals to meet and exchange ideas.

By postponing OTC to the second half of 2021, we aim to preserve the significant work of the program committee and authors, as well as minimize the economic impact this decision has on businesses in Houston and throughout the industry.

A mainstay since 1969, the conference is a significant boon to the local economy, as industry regulars, investors, and entrepreneurs pack our hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The OTC has spawned OTC Brazil, OTC Asia, and even the Arctic Technology Conference.

Two years ago, more than 60,000 attendees and 2,300 exhibitors packed the event.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

The promotion of drones helps the city of Houston transition to becoming the energy 2.0 capital of the world, says this expert. Photo courtesy

The state of Texas, as well as the rest of the nation, has been intensely impacted by the effects of climate change as well as aging utility infrastructure. Innovative drone technologies help address the pressing inspection and mapping needs of utilities and other critical infrastructure across the country, primarily bridges and roads, railways, pipelines, and powerplants.

There is a significant need for high-precision inspection services in today's market. Additional work will result if the proposed infrastructure bill passes. The bill has $73 billion earmarked toward modernizing the nation's electricity grid. Drone —or UAS (unmanned aerial systems)— technological advances, including thermal imaging, LiDAR (light detection and ranging), IRR (infrared radiation and remote sensing), and AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning) are applied toward determining and predicting trends and are instrumental toward making our country safer.

"The newest advances in drone technology are not so much in the drones themselves, but rather, in the sensors and cameras, such as thermal cameras. Technologies such as LiDAR are now more cost-effective. The newer sensors permit the drones to operate in tighter spaces and cover more acreage in less time, with higher accuracy and fidelity", according to Will Paden, president of Soaring Eagle Technologies, a Houston-based tech-enabled imaging company servicing utility and energy companies.

Paden anticipates growth in the use of the technology for critical infrastructure including utilities, pipelines, power plants, bridges, buildings, railways, and more, for routine and post-storm inspections

"[Soaring Eagle's] ability to harness UAS technology to efficiently retrieve field data across our 8,000+ square mile area is unprecedented. Coupling this data with post-processing methods such as asset digitization unlocked a plethora of opportunities to visualize system resources and further analyze the surrounding terrain and environment," says Paige Richardson, GIS specialist with Navopache Electric Cooperative. "Our engineering and operations departments now have the ability to view 3D substation models, abstract high-resolution digital evaluation models, and apply these newfound resources as they work on future construction projects."

The promotion of drones helps the city of Houston transition to becoming the energy 2.0 capital of the world. The UAS (unmanned aerial systems) technology offers an environmentally cleaner option for routine and post-storm inspections, replacing the use of fossil fuels consumed by helicopters. The use of drones versus traditional inspection systems is significantly safer, more efficient and accurate than traditional alternatives such as scaffolding or bucket trucks. Mapping and inspection work can be done at much lower costs than with manned aircraft operations. These are highly technical flights, where the focus on safety and experience flying both manned and unmanned aircraft, is paramount.

There is much work ahead in high-tech drone technology services, especially for companies vetted by the FAA with high safety standards. According to one study, the overall drone inspection & monitoring market is projected to grow from USD 9.1 billion in 2021 to USD 33.6 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 15.7 percent from 2021 to 2030. North America is estimated to account for the largest share of the drone inspection & monitoring market from 2021 to 2030.

Paden predicts the use of machine learning/artificial intelligence (ML/AI) and data automation will continue to improve over the next 3-5 years, as more data is collected and analyzed and the technology is a applied to "teach it" to detect patterns and anomalies. He anticipates ML/AI will filter out the amount of data the end users will need to view to make decisions saving time and money for the end users.

Learn more at the Energy Drone & Robotics Summit taking place in The Woodlands on October 25 through October 27.

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Alex Danielides is head of business development for Houston-based Iapetus Holdings, a privately held, minority and veteran-owned portfolio of energy and utility services businesses. One of the companies is Soaring Eagle Technologies.

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