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Oil & Gas Applications for Remote Camera Systems

  Winter 2017

Oil & Gas Applications for Remote Camera Systems
By: David Gaw, CEO, Sensera Systems


Seeing is believing. But getting eyes-on remote drilling or production sites has traditionally been difficult and expensive. First there is the issue of power. Drilling sites may have temporary or intermittent power. Production sites may have no power, with SCADA/telemetry systems having their own dedicated solar system.  Secondly, there is the issue of network connectivity. SCADA systems typically do not provide enough bandwidth to support image or video data.

Fortunately, there are a number of recent technology developments that have combined to make it more feasible than ever to deploy cameras at remote drilling and production sites.

Advances in microelectronics and integrated electronic design have enabled designers to create camera systems with extremely low power consumption. The low power consumption means smaller size and lower costs.

The method that system integrators have used in the past is to combine off-the-shelf components to build a remote camera system. These systems would combine an IP security camera, router, cellular modem, charge controller, voltage converters, battery pack, and solar panel. In addition, some sort of supervisory controller is often needed to monitor and reboot hardware remotely. A typical system of this design will require 30-40 watts or more of power. This results in a requirement for a table-sized solar panel, and 100+ lbs. of batteries.

In an integrated low-power remote camera system, all those components are combined into a single set of microelectronics. This reduces costs, size and improves reliability. A remote camera system such as Sensera’s SiteWatch-PRO2 weighs less than 20 lbs. including solar panel and batteries. This means one person can easily install and move the system.

A “Smart” camera refers to a device that does more than spit out video. It can have onboard processing for video analytics, circuitry for managing power and health monitoring, ability to send alerts, and substantial onboard storage for recording locally, avoiding cellular data costs. These types of “smart” cameras are ideal for remote applications in oil and gas, to keep cellular costs minimal, improve system reliability, and to make installation simple.



Traditional remote solar/battery systems such as sealed lead acid, have a fairly limited cycle life when used as rechargeable systems. Cycle life determines how many charge/discharge cycles a battery can sustain before losing significant capacity. Lithium based battery systems such as Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFEPO4) can provide as many as 3000 cycles (~ 8 years) before losing 20% capacity. This is about 6-8x better than typical lead acid technologies. The result for a remote camera system is reliable operation for years – maintenance free.

Some battery chemistries such as LiFEPO4 also support “rapid charge rates”. Quick charging is important in a remote solar powered camera system. Rapid charging means that when the sun peaks out from the clouds for a few minutes here and there, the system can recharge rapidly – make hay while the sun shines! The result again is reliable 24/7/365 operation from a solar powered camera system.


Traditional oil and gas applications have relied on private custom networks or SATCOM for site communications. For some extremely remote sites those remain the best options. For a large number of other locations, cellular, specifically 4G/LTE, can be a very effective option. Cellular coverage has continued to improve each year, and 4G/LTE technologies allow for higher data rates, and lower power consumption of devices. Monthly costs have come down somewhat, but also include increasing amounts of data. That means that costs per megabyte have dropped substantially. Traditional remote camera systems can require substantial cellular data. Modern site cameras have intelligence built in to send data only when events are detected, saving substantially on cellular data costs.


Modern remote site cameras connect to a cloud service. This provides automated and secure archival of collected imagery – no shuffling of SD cards or emailing around photos, or hassling with FTP servers.  Cloud connected systems also provide access to the cameras in real-time from any smartphone, tablet, or PC without requiring Apps to be installed by the IT department. Real-time alerts for events detected by the remote camera are relayed through the cloud and delivered to the user via email or text message within seconds.

The cloud greatly simplifies deployment of remote site cameras since no software install or configuration is required, no IT expertise is needed for setup, and anytime/ anywhere access is provided to all users instantly.


Today’s state-of-the-art remote site cameras include multiple detectors to provide optimal detection and monitoring under low-power conditions. Cameras such as Sensera’s SiteWatch PRO2 model include a thermal imager for long-range detection of people and vehicles on the drilling or production site. The thermal imager is coupled with video analytics to provide robust detection under all lighting and weather conditions day or night. The SiteWatch PRO2 also includes low-light black and white camera and a color camera, to support recognition and identification in all lighting conditions. IR Illumination is used to provide high quality images even at completely dark sites.

A remote camera solution such as the SiteWatch PRO2 can support a wide range of applications in oil and gas, including intrusion detection, logging visitors to a site, observing and documenting operations, and supporting site safety.

A smart, solar/wireless/cloud camera system such as the SiteWatch PRO2 represents a new breed of options for remote site monitoring in oil and gas applications. Lowcost, simple to deploy with now power or network needed, the SiteWatch PRO2 and similar cameras can provide 24/7/365 real-time monitoring to prevent theft and improve operations.

About the Author
David Gaw is CEO and Founder of Sensera Systems, a leading manufacturer of next-generation, low cost, solar/wireless site cameras for construction, security, energy, and industrial automation. David has B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science and over 25 years of experience creating technology-based products in a wide range of automation markets. Contact David or Sensera Systems at

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