The oil & gas industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by digitalization, analytics, and cybersecurity, and growing importance of technologies such as robotics (including drones), predictive maintenance, and edge computing. In the last three years alone, there have been over 523,000 patents filed and granted in the oil & gas industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in oil & gas: pipeline inspection robots. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

60+ innovations will shape the oil & gas industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the oil & gas industry using innovation intensity models built on over 196,000 patents, there are 60+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, intelligent predictive maintenance, gas pipeline network monitoring, and smart oil & gas wells are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Oil well surveillance, embedded controllers, and FCEV fuel monitoring are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas is inspection robots, which is now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the oil & gas industry

Pipeline inspection robots is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Pipeline inspection robots are robotic devices designed to inspect and provide information on the internal and external conditions of pipelines. They are equipped with cameras, sensors, and other tools to detect and evaluate problems such as corrosion, cracks, blockages, and leaks in pipelines without the need for human intervention.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 160+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established oil & gas companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of pipeline inspection robots.

Key players in pipeline inspection robots – a disruptive innovation in the oil & gas industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.  

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to pipeline inspection robots

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
SZ DJI Technology 193 Unlock Company Profile
Gecko Robotics 64 Unlock Company Profile
GoPro 44 Unlock Company Profile
OMAX 30 Unlock Company Profile
China General Nuclear Power 26 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Heavy Industries 25 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 24 Unlock Company Profile
Autel Robotics USA 23 Unlock Company Profile
Shenzhen Bominwell Robotics 18 Unlock Company Profile
Fanuc 16 Unlock Company Profile
Hangzhou Shenhao Technology 15 Unlock Company Profile
National Grid 14 Unlock Company Profile
PowerChina Northwest Engineering 12 Unlock Company Profile
RedZone Robotics 11 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 10 Unlock Company Profile
LG Display 9 Unlock Company Profile
Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory 9 Unlock Company Profile
Getinge 8 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 8 Unlock Company Profile
China National Petroleum 8 Unlock Company Profile
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission 8 Unlock Company Profile
Hon Hai Precision Industry 7 Unlock Company Profile
CKD 7 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 7 Unlock Company Profile
Melrose Industries 6 Unlock Company Profile
CrossWing 6 Unlock Company Profile
Zerotech (Shenzhen) Intelligence Robot 6 Unlock Company Profile
Viettel Military Industry and Telecoms Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
General Motors 5 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President Enterprises 5 Unlock Company Profile
UBTECH Robotics 5 Unlock Company Profile
Wuhan Easy-Sight Technology 5 Unlock Company Profile
The Walt Disney 5 Unlock Company Profile
iRobot 4 Unlock Company Profile
China Southern Power Grid 4 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Drainage Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council 3 Unlock Company Profile
Shenzhen Autel Intelligent Aviation Technology 3 Unlock Company Profile
Aegion 3 Unlock Company Profile
Sichuan Artigent Robotics Equipment 3 Unlock Company Profile
China Communications Construction Group 3 Unlock Company Profile
POSCO 3 Unlock Company Profile
Dubai World 3 Unlock Company Profile
Electricite de France 3 Unlock Company Profile
Process Vision 3 Unlock Company Profile
Shenzhen Sunwin Intelligent 3 Unlock Company Profile
Country Garden 3 Unlock Company Profile
Nanjing Tianchuang Electronic Technology 3 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President China 3 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

DJI Technology is one of the leading patent filers in pipeline inspection robots for the oil & gas industry. Primarily known for its drone solutions, the company also offers image sensors for effective information gathering. Its Pipeline Integrity Management solution covers a range of products that can undertake general inspection, leak detection, and repair, and trigger emergency responses. Some other key patent filers in the space include Gecko Robotics and GoPro.

In terms of application diversity, Autonomous Control Systems leads the pack, while Gecko Robotics and National Grid stood in the second and third positions, respectively. Autonomous Control Systems produces drones for industrial applications and includes capabilities such as image processing, artificial intelligence (AI), and rapid prototyping to mass production. It has automated its pipeline inspection process with the help of cloud and AI technologies.

By means of geographic reach, Gecko Robotics held the top position, followed by OMAX and Siemens. Gecko offers full-stack robotic inspection and software modeling to its clients.

Pipelines are the most efficient method for transporting crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas. It is important to monitor the pipelines along their length for theft or leakages. Pipeline inspection robots are deployed to effectively monitor the pipelines to ensure reliable endpoint delivery of the resource being transported.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the oil & gas industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things in Oil & Gas.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.