How do you monitor the remote areas of 300,000 miles of pipeline? Telescope? Satellite? Lots of interns? Nope. It’s drones. Once seen as just a kid’s toy, drones are now being put to work in the oil and natural gas industry by going where people can’t go.

So what was done before? Before drones, inspecting miles of pipelines was done by helicopter, truck, and on-foot for remote areas. And while some inspections still require up-close review from an expert, drones are equipped with new tech to detect and deter potential leaks or methane emissions. Plus, instead of sending out a crew to inspect a remote location, drone surveys are also safer.

Using special cameras and sensors, a trained pilot can steer a drone at low altitudes over pipelines for inspection. The pilot uses what looks like a hand-held video gaming device to control the drone, which collects and sends back the information gathered. It’s sensitive optical sensors, such as infrared, help monitor emissions over operating sites and high-resolution imagery reviews pipe sections in real time.

New technology and innovation for drones is making them more accessible than ever. And the oil and natural gas industry has embraced this innovation, to help their efforts as good stewards of the environment. With drone operating costs dropping as technology improves, this tech is rising as the new eye in the sky for oil and natural gas producers.