top of page

PETROBRAS/UTGCA : Aerial Photogrammetric Survey (APS)

Potential Savings:  Aprox. US$ 1,000,000

Other Benefits:  + Faster

                          + Cheaper

                          + Safer

                          + No production interference

                          + Information from privileged/inacessible angles

                          + Models with Absolute Realism (True Color, True Dimension, UTM Coordinates) 



Industrial Asset Management is one of the key drivers of competitiveness among large industrial companies nowadays. Industrial assets comprise all physical items and related information belonging to an industrial facility. Through effective Industrial Asset Management firms can lower operational costs, improve asset efficiency and enhance safety, a tripod that leads to lower overall costs, higher productivity, and consequently more competitiveness.

Continuous changes in regulations, technologies and product specifications demand constant plant modifications and extensive upgrades. To keep all asset information up-to-date either a company has to manage changes just-in-time through its Plant Information Management System (see CASE BRASKEM - OWNER/OPERATOR ) or has to undergo periodic industrial field surveys to bring its documentation and databases to current status. 

In early 2016, PETROBRAS-UTGCA realized that a new competitive reality was set in terms of safety and productivity for the oil & gas industry and it was time to embrace Industrial Asset Management.


Although a relatively new plant (2012), PETROBRAS-UTGCA had underwent several modifications, expansions and upgrades in a short period of time. Even though engineering information covering these changes was available it was both scattered and inconsistent with the actual plant, making an overall field survey unavoidable to ensure data consistence and integrity.

The sheer size of the plant (around 750.000m2 or 190 Acres) and its great complexity, however, rendered the task of looking for these differences rather tricky and burdensome if traditional survey methods were considered. An overlook on traditional industrial survey methods follows below.




























































Direct visual inspection is the most traditional way of gathering/checking engineering information. Direct visual inspection consists of sending personal to the industrial field to collect data or compare documents with the help of metering tools like meters or a theodolite, for example. 








Though it is relatively simple and cheap, the larger the amount of information to be gathered/check the longer it takes and the less precise it becomes. Besides, direct visual inspection demands people to stay exposed to risk/hazardous industrial conditions such as height, contamination, noise, confined space, falling objects, electrical shock and others, for an extensive period of time in exchange for a very small (and rather imprecise) amount of information.


In the last decade, laser scanning gained acceptance in the industrial field due to its relative precision and capacity for bulk data collection. Laser scanning consists of using a equipment called "total station" that automatically shots beams of laser in all directions and collect data regarding their reflection point that in turn is transformed in "point clouds". 

However, the high cost of the scanning equipment, of the specialized softwares to treat and manipulate the resulting clouds, and the necessary specialized personnel to collect and use their data made laser scanning an extremely expensive last resort for industrial field survey.   


Despite the high costs involved, laser scanning presents users with several challenges and limitations whose impact grows exponentially with plant size. 

Due to the technological limitations of using a non-stereoscopic laser beam, laser scanning collects a disproportionally larger amount of points on nearby objects when compared to distant ones. As a result the point cloud created is one of heterogeneous density. 

To compensate for this heterogeneity and to accomplish reasonable measurement of far objects, total station ends up saturating nearby objects with laser beams what makes laser scanning point clouds extremely heavily and hard to be manipulated (files > 5 Gb). To be used as a graphic reference point clouds need to be constantly cropped into smaller volumes (around 3 m x 3m x 3m) what greatly reduces productivity while updating models. Even though, software errors are a constant requiring expensive hardware and constant software maintenance as buffers constantly overflow. 

Another common drawback is that point clouds collected from each scanning spot have to be stitched together using a software, a process that introduces imprecisions and distortions at the boundaries of each individual scanning area. Combined with the natural distortions arising from the non-stereoscopic character of the measurements such measurement errors tend to escalate requiring direct visual inspection to ensure reliability.

Once laser beams are monochromatic so are their point clouds. This feature of laser scanning makes it hard for users to distinguish objects and their boundaries what either leads to misrepresentation of objects or requests for additional direct visual inspection for confirmations.

Although for shorter periods of time, laser scanning still requires personnel to be exposed to risk and hazardous industrial conditions, both during scanning process and cloud usage period.

In search for alternatives, PETROBRAS-UTGCA asked IATEC Plant Solutions Inc. to develop a field surveying method for large-scale industrial application that would be cheaper, faster and more precise than traditional methods, to be used as a up-to-date reference for a future AS-BUILT processes.



After detailed analysis and careful research, IATEC Plant Solutions Inc. developed a new approach for large-scale industrial survey called Aerial Photogrammetric Survey (APS), bringing together seemingly unrelated technologies like UAVs and digital photogrammetry. 

Several tests were ran to select the most appropriate hardware, software and procedures for this specific application until IATEC PLANT Solutions Inc. received green light from PETROBRAS-UTGCA. Thanks to a maintenance shutdown, the plant would be completely safe for tests for 10 days.

In order to minimize field presence while maximizing data collection IATEC Plant Solutions Inc. dedicated great attention to planning. PETROBRAS-UTGCA facility was divided into large areas that were photogrammetrically scanned using different methods.


Using a professional grade UAV, automatically driven by a flight planning application for enhanced telemetry, IATEC Plant Solutions Inc. collected in just 3 days a total of 47.6Gb of data (i.e.: images, videos and telemetry) from an area of approximately 750,000m2 (190 Acres). 


Images, videos and telemetry data were processed using the latest generation of DELL workstations through a different combination of softwares, settings and procedures in order to enhance the quality, speed, accuracy, flexibility, configurability and usability of the results. 


Out of processing work, 147Gb of data have been generated, comprising 3D mesh models, 3D point clouds and Ortomosaics (hyper-high resolution 250Megapixel images) for each of the 10 sub-areas selected. 



APS results were simply astonishing, a vivid testimony of real objects turned into digital ones. The results proved more efficient and economic than previous methods, providing impressive accuracy and models that overlay perfectly with existing 3D designs.


APS mesh models reflect the true reality of the field and can be easily manipulated for plant review through simple 3D visualization softwares like MESHLAB, for example. 

APS mesh models are TRUE DIMENSION what enable lengths and distances among actual elements in the field to be quickly measured down to the precision of 1mm (upper red box in the image below).

APS mesh models are created based on UTM coordinates that can be precise read whenever necessary (lower red box in the image below) telling the exact position of each plant asset.


Another key product of the processing is the APS point clouds. 

As a result of complex calculations, APS point clouds display a perfectly homogeneous distribution of points, making them lighter and more easily manipulated. Entire processing units can be visualized at once enhancing productivity when APS point clouds are used as modeling reference.

APS point clouds also show objects in their TRUE COLOR reducing the time users spend trying to figure out object boundaries, enhancing productivity even further.


APS point clouds can be easily attached to 3D review or CAD softwares (such as AutoDesk Navisworks, and AutoDesk Civil 3D, respectively) and be used as a reference check against 3D models making the difference spotting task much easier and faster.

An overall comparison between APS and traditional industrial survey methods follows below:

The APS technology developed by IATEC Plant Solutions Inc. represents a major breakthrough in the industrial survey field making it easier and cheaper for companies like PETROBRAS-UTGCA to bring their engineering documents and databases up-to-date, the very first step in implementing an effective Industrial Asset Management program towards more safety and productivity. 

bottom of page