Drones in the Energy Sector: Soaring into the Future?

December 2, 2016 - 9:00 am

Atlantic Council, 1030 15th ST NW, 12th Floor
Washington, DC

Drones in the Energy Sector: Soaring into the Future?

A conversation with:
Robert Pappas
Special Rules Coordinator, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration
Federal Aviation Administration

John O’Brien 
Facilities Operations and Reliability Focus Area Manager
Chevron Corporation

Dexter Lewis 
Senior Research Engineer 
Southern Company

Moderated by:
Cynthia Quarterman 
Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center
Atlantic Council

Introduced by: 
Ambassador Richard L. Morningstar
Founding Director and Chairman, Global Energy Center, 
Atlantic Council

What are the practices, risks, and benefits of drone use in the energy industry?  Will regulations currently under development for drone use impede or facilitate this emerging role for drones?  The potential is huge: according to one study, drone technology in the energy industry can generate $82 billion and 100,000 new jobs for the US economy. This technology, while still in its infancy, is already being used to monitor pipelines, electricity lines, solar panels, and wind turbines, as well as to respond to energy-related incidents.  Meanwhile, international and domestic regulators are beginning to set rules on drone use and harmonize standards across national borders. The federal government, electric utility industry, oil and gas industry, and drone industry all play a role in this process. Join the Global Energy Center for a conversation with key stakeholders to explore the intersection of national security, safety, and privacy issues with energy-related drone use, and the role of regulatory frameworks to help realize the economic and environmental potential of drones.

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Atlantic Council
1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor (West Tower Elevator) 
Washington, DC 

This event is open to press and on the record. 

Metro and parking info 


Robert Pappas manages the Flight Operations (AFS-87) in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration Office. He oversees the management of special projects and facilitates collaboration and coordination of project activities with other Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) organizations. Robert works with stakeholders inside and outside the FAA to ensure special projects are aligned to best support the myriad of ongoing activities to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS) including regulatory, policy, and standards development. Robert joined the UAS Integration Office in 2014 as the Special Rules Coordinator. He managed the implementation of Section 333, paving the way to granting authorizations to more than 5,000 small UAS operators. More recently, Robert managed the UAS Focus Area Pathfinder Program, critical to implementation of additional UAS integration firsts: extended visual line of site and beyond visual line of sight operations. Robert continues to oversee the Section 333 and Pathfinder Programs and is also responsible for managing other special projects such as UAS Detection and Mitigation at Airports, the UAS Test Site Program, data management, and additional future special projects. He also builds multifaceted teams to energetically address critical integration challenges. Robert has been at the FAA since 1999. As the Aviation Safety (AVS) Research, Engineering and Development (RE&D) manager he managed a $70 million portfolio of aviation safety research. He has also supported the Director of Aircraft Certification as a Special Technical Assistant. He worked at the FAA's William J Hughes Technical Center and managed the Aging Aircraft Research Program. Robert led the development of Arc Fault Circuit Breakers in the wake of the TWA-800 and SA-111 accidents. Before FAA he worked at the Naval Air Systems Command as a System Safety Engineer and was the System Safety Engineering Branch Manager.

John O’Brien manages a multimillion dollar Research and Development portfolio as it applies to Facilities Operations Reliability and DEEPWATER Operations at Chevron Corporation. This covers facilities across the spectrum from the wellhead onshore/offshore to the gas station including all aspects of production, transportation and processing. John serves on the management review boards of key research and development alliances with Los Alamos, Chevron/GE, and NASA Jet Propulsion Labs. John is an Executive Council Member of TWI UK. He is a current leader of multiple R&D projects and serves on the Pipeline Operations & Integrity Committee at Pipeline Research Council International. He is a leading member with Petrobot EU R&D Consortium for Pressure Vessels and In Service Tank Robotics. In January 2013, John was a speaker at and co-chair of Upstream/Midstream Tracks 4th API Inspection Summit in Galveston, TX. From January 2008 to January 2010 he served as the chairman of the American Petroleum Institute Committee on Refining Equipment Sub-Committee on Inspection. Before these accomplishments, John served as principal consultant at ITC Skills and as a technology coordinator with Saudi Aramco. 

Dexter Lewis is the senior research engineer for Southern Company. His primary research focus has been the use and integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for Southern Company since 2014. Dexter is heavily involved in identifying utility applications of UAS, managing UAS demonstrations, and working with the Federal Aviation Administration. In April 2010, Dexter was hired as a research engineer for distribution with Southern Company. In this position, Dexter’s primary research focus was the identification and evaluation of new methods and technologies to manage the power delivery distribution system. He accomplished this by leading collaborative research with internal and external parties. Dexter has been a certified and current private pilot since October 2009. With his aviation background and research experience, Dexter is working to accelerate the adoption of UAS for the electric utility industry. Dexter began his career at Southern Company as an intern in the area of Power Quality. As an intern, Dexter evaluated power quality equipment and technologies. This often included data acquisition design and installation, testing procedure development, and data analysis. 

Cynthia Quarterman is a nonresident distinguished fellow within the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council. Cynthia served as the administrator of the US Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), from 2009 until 2014. She has been a key policymaker in energy development, safety, and transportation since the Clinton administration. Throughout her expert handling of complicated issues; including deep-water oil and gas exploration and production; royalty collection; liquefied national gas (LNG) facilities; and the truck, rail, and pipeline transportation of the nation's new energy bounty, Cynthia has been a steadfast advocate for responsible energy development and prudent regulations. Cynthia served as the head of PHMSA during the Obama Administration and as director of the former Minerals Management Service during the Clinton administration. She has also served in numerous other capacities within the Department of the Interior and was a member of the Obama administration’s transition team at the Department of Energy. In addition to her extensive experience within the federal government, Quarterman was also previously a partner in the Washington office of Steptoe and Johnson LLP, where her practice focused on issues related to transportation and energy. 

Ambassador Richard L. Morningstar (Ret.) is the director of the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council. He served as the US ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan from July 2012 to August 2014. Prior to his appointment, beginning in April 2009, he was the secretary of state's special envoy for Eurasian energy. Prior to that, Ambassador Morningstar lectured at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard as well as Stanford Law School. From June 1999 to September 2001, he served as US ambassador to the European Union. Prior to this, Ambassador Morningstar served as special adviser to the president and secretary of state for Caspian Basin energy diplomacy, where he was responsible for assuring maximum coordination within the executive branch and with other governments and international organizations to promote US policies on Caspian Basin energy development and transportation. From April 1995 to July 1998, he served as ambassador and special adviser to the president and secretary of state on assistance for the new independent states (NIS) of the former Soviet Union, where he oversaw all US bilateral assistance and trade investment activities in the NIS. From 1993 to 1995, he served as senior vice president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).