How drones are used in Houston's oil and gas industry

DataWing leads the way

By Debbie Strauss - Special Projects Producer

HOUSTON - Former Air Force fighter pilots are watching over Houston's oil and gas industry.

"We flew fighter aircraft (and) instructor fighter aircraft," said Landon Phillips, who co-founded Texas-based DataWing with Steven Fargo.

They are like Goose and Maverick, but instead, they were Ram and Sniper.

Phillips and Fargo now use that experience with much smaller vehicles: drones.

"The excitement ... even though it's a small aircraft, you are still operating it," Phillips said. "You aren't in it, but you still have the smell and feel that you had in the operational Air Force, at least in our organization that we do."

DataWing is a consulting firm that helps other businesses with their drone departments. The firm trains pilots and even helps companies write their safety manuals. DataWing also has its own pilots across the country.

The company has been in business just two years, but already, it has a client list that spans industries from insurance to construction to emergency management.

Basically, DataWing will send a drone wherever it can be dangerous to send a human.

"So, going up (and) looking at a roof, supporting tornado events, flooding, fires -- (or looking at) the side of a building, a bridge (or) cell tower inspection," Phillips said.

One of DataWing's biggest clients is in oil and gas: The Woodlands' Anadarko Petroleum.

"We don't have to put a person up in a flare tower in order to inspect that tower," said John Christiansen, with Anadarko.

It goes beyond safety to innovation.

"We will have the capability of being able to equip infrared cameras and FLIR cameras on drones," Christiansen said. "That will help us inspect pipelines and inspect facilities and that way, we can find leaks and we can immediately address them."

Texas is leading the way for drones in the United States.

Channel 2 crunched the numbers in the FAA's brand new drone database.

Three Texas cities crack the top-five hottest ZIP codes for drone licenses: McKinney, Cedar Park and Katy.

1. McKinney, Texas -- 75070
2. Katy, Texas -- 77494
3. Redmond, Washington -- 98052
4. Cedar Park, Texas -- 78613
5. Parker, Colorado -- 80134
Source: FAA

Drone hobbyists are in Texas, as well.

"In Texas, we do have that pioneering spirit, that we like to be the first (and) we like to be the best," Phillips said. "And I think you will probably see that shining through in the drone industry as well, as we continue to move forward."

Check out some drone hobbyist groups in Southeast Texas.

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