Helimatic is your “intelligent eye in the sky”

Australian company Helimatic utilises helicopters to carry out aerial pipeline inspections as well as airborne leak detection and have developed a range of products to make the analysis process easy and compatible with pipeline companies’ existing systems.

Helimatic originated from Helicopter View Pty Ltd and is the brainchild of Jack Hurley and Ian McMinn. Based in Howlong, New South Wales and Port Campbell, Victoria, Helimatic operates Eurocopter AS350 and Bell 206 helicopters and services all of Australia.

Helimatic’s Director and Operations Manager Jack Hurley has been involved in the helicopter industry since 1991. His past experience saw him specialise in aerial work activities with the agricultural industry through his aerial agriculture company Timberline Helicopters. In addition he built the successful Skycam system used in tourist helicopters to provide customers with a video of their flight.

Helimatic’s Airborne Video Imaging (AVI) provides an intelligent eye in the sky to provide digital imagery of pipeline assets for management purposes. The AVI system utilises high resolution 3ccd digital video cameras that record to state-of -the-art digital video recorders. In addition, GPS NMEA data is recorded uniquely onto DVR for location information, which combined with DGPS Omnistar correction, is accurate to less than two metres.

Another feature is optional port and starboard oblique digital cameras for surveillance operations outside the ROW, which can be crucial for a broader perspective of potential future concerns on encroachment onto the ROW. The AVI system also provides for high resolution geo-referenced digital still images.

AVI allows owners and operators to build a video database of the pipeline for management purposes; provide proof of monitoring obligations and maintain a highly efficient operation resulting in less costs.

Helimatic has also developed the software duo of Gastrak and Gasview for the recording and subsequent analysis of data recorded in-flight. Gastrak is the component used during the in-flight surveillance and records the exact location of pipeline anomalies. Utilising GPS and DGPS location data Gastrak records specific details of detected anomalies. Gastrak integrates with Helimatic’s Gasview and also with AVI data.

“While you are videoing the pipeline you may as well be looking for anomalies and recording them,” Mr Hurley said.

Gasview is designed to make viewing AVI footage and Gastrak data easier. The program is designed to fit in between a pipeline company’s current GIS packages and still be able to interpret and export data to and fro in order to complement their current GIS package.

Gasview displays the location of pipeline anomalies detected by Gastrak, providing specific information and digital images of each anomaly. Gasview’s benefits include enabling clients to view geo referenced images of assets, vegetation and ROW. Gasview has been developed to allow it to be operated in the field.

“We developed Gasview so everyone involved in a gas pipeline operation can view our footage and anomalies,” Mr Hurley said.

“Our aim on developing Gasview was to provide an easier way for clients to view our data whether it be AVI or Gastrak data. The data does not need to go to the companies GIS personnel to be interpreted for viewing.

Another groundbreaking service Helimatic is offering is Aerial Pipeline Leak Surveillance (APLS) using the flame ioniseation detection method. This is the first time Australian pipeline companies have a way of locating pinhole leaks from the air at their disposal – saving time and money. Canadian company Airwave Electronics developed APLS and has used the method on over 40,000 miles of pipelines in North America. Helimatic has introduced this method to Australia and is the exclusive agent for Airwave Electronics in Australia.

The analyser, combined with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and a Data Acquisition System, is mounted in the helicopter and can detect leaks in both gas and liquid pipelines.

The system sees the data processed by software to provide the pipeline owner or operator with GPS co-ordinates enabling them to investigate and, if necessary, make repairs to the pipeline.

During the AVI and APLS processes the aircraft is flown at 100 to 200 feet above the pipeline right of way at a speed of 100 knots. With APLS the sample probe on the aircraft extends into the undisturbed air beyond the aircraft’s nose and the analyser detects any hydrocarbon anomalies in the sample air.

Helimatic aims to align itself with gas companies in order to develop solutions for owners and operators. Helimatic ensures that a plan is developed pre-flight to maximise the benefit that is delivered to clients.

“Helimatic is providing an exciting new way to inspect pipelines that is not only cost effective, but also quick and fully supported with a range of analysis software,” Mr Hurley concluded.

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