Heath Consultants Incorporated, a developer of natural gas detection technologies, and Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI), a technology development firm, have announced that they are adapting a laser-based Remote Methane Leak Detector (RMLD) for mounting on the InstantEye, PSI’s two-foot-wide quadrotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicle featuring highly advanced autonomy and all-weather operation. This technology combination, known as the RMLD Sentry, will implement self-directed flight patterns to continuously monitor, locate, and quantify volumetric leak rates of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from natural gas production sites.
The RMLD Sentry measures methane by sending an infrared laser light beam downwards from the vehicle and detecting some of the laser light reflected back from the ground. It relies on attenuation of the laser beam by the methane in the laser path at certain wavelengths, as compared to little attenuation at other wavelengths. By flying circular patterns around a methane leak, the RMLD Sentry is able to deduce the leak rate and home-in on the leak location.
Development and evaluation of RMLD Sentry is sponsored by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA-e). The three-year ARPA-E program will test prototype units at selected field sites.