For the past decades, aerial surveys have been the state-of-the-art solution for right-of-way (ROW) monitoring to protect pipelines from third-party-interferences (TPI's). When TPI activities damage a pipeline, it can lead to disastrous events. Although, aerial inspection systems are still the most widely used approach to mitigate these risks, recent developments in Earth observation (EO) technology have enabled satellite-based ROW-monitoring solutions to become a viable alternative. In fact, it will be shown in this paper that satellite-based approaches applied in full operation in many cases even outperform aerial surveys with respect to TPI detection performance.
The main drawbacks of traditional aerial platforms relate to unreliability due to weather dependence, a relatively low temporal re-visit rate and reporting subjectiveness due to a human observer. Nevertheless, the industry has been holding on to this technology, as it is a proven concept with a perceived high performance. As an alternative to these aerial inspections, the satellite-based system CoSMiC-EYE (Combined-Sar-Multi-spectral-Change detection) has been developed by Orbital Eye. This new TPI monitoring solution can operate weather independent, offers high temporal revisit rates and delivers objective reproduceable monitoring results without human observers, thus overcoming the major drawbacks of traditional aerial inspections.
In the past year, CoSMiC-EYE transitioned to a fully operational satellite-based TPI monitoring solution servicing thousands of kilometres of pipeline world-wide. In this conference contribution we present and detail our findings based on these operational deployments that were executed together with a number of pipeline operators from across the globe. The results will show, among other valuable insights, that satellite-based ROW-monitoring is fully ready for large scale operational use and, in many cases, can outperform traditional aerial inspection solutions. The combination of SAR and Multi-spectral imagery is shown to be key in this and truly presents a novel solution to manage TPI's more efficiently and sustainable.