Sky Futures

Using Drones to Evaluate Oil Rigs

2 min read
Speculative Design
Design Research
Service Design
energy & utilities
situation & task

A new proposition for the oil and gas industry

Sky Futures, a UK based company has been developing their services for some of the biggest oil and gas companies in the North Sea, Middle East, South East Asia and North America.

The company uses drones to carry out oil rig inspections; saving time, money and increasing health and safety. The services provided are at the forefront of innovation within this sector. Operators work from vessels or platforms, flying remote-operated drones that are equipped with high-definition video and thermal cameras to carry out visual inspections of assets on oil rigs.

The data collected is then uploaded to inspection software that can measure defects and corrosion of assets. This information forms the basis for the report that can be exported and reviewed by the client’s internal engineers, in order to aid the decision making process of maintenance of assets.

Spotless were asked to design a new web application for viewing reports and data from oil rig inspections. Using a human centred design approach we conducted user interviews, stakeholder workshops (which then formed the basis for initial concepts), wireframes, and the look and feel of the product. There were two main users to consider: the Sky futures internal team who would be managing the files and uploading imagery and the clients who will be reviewing the imagery and the reports.


Listening to different users

We first needed to understand the necessary elements for the service and its users; ordering inspections, uploading data, analysing the data, and reviewing the analysed data.

Informal interviews were carried out with relevant parties that included stakeholders, engineers, UAV pilots, and inspectors. It was important for us to understand all the different user needs and personas, so we interviewed people in pairs in order to listen to different experiences and stories. After analysing the information collected from the interviews, a final report was presented to stakeholders, and we began strategising the different elements of the project needed. As this was a project based around engineering knowledge, we wanted to keep in touch with the main contacts at Sky Futures, to make sure the solutions aligned with user expectations.

Visual design strategy

The look and feel of the product was an important aspect to get right, and we wanted to develop visual strategies early in order to understand what message needed to be communicated with the visual design. With this in mind we carried out a look and feel workshop, where the different parties spoke about their hopes for the project. To start the conversation, Spotless had developed a mood board, and people were asked to choose what imagery they liked and explain why. This enabled us to understand what visuals appealed to the users but also what words they associated these with. Some of the words, used were bespoke and professional, simple, clear and corporate.

at a glance


User interviews, stakeholder workshops, wireframing, moodboards, iterative prototyping and testing

Spotless package recommendation

Elevate Your Existing Business; Design Your Future; Prototype, Test and Learn; Totally Understand Your Customer


Response to insights

Alongside developing a new look and feel, we started sketching some initial ideas and liaised with specialists to make sure we understood the user needs. We found out there were some engineers who liked to see all the information up front like a dashboard, and others who wanted it hidden and only appear when needed. We used this as a starting point for our design concept, and played with the levels of information displayed.

Our solution was to create a high level view of the information at first glance but allowed users to delve into the detail if needed. A simple navigation was used so it was easy to move between the high level view and the more granular view.

Prototype testing

We tested these with users, and some of the features proved more useful that others. We then used this feedback to focus our efforts on the main features and removed any unnecessary functionality.

Using the insight from the mood board workshop, we developed two visual concepts, one more technical looking and one that was less technical. The less technical look was preferred and it was applied to the wireframes, giving a consistent look and feel all round.

Creation of design

The team at Sky Futures, worked with us to help the product align with their business needs, and that of their customers. The finished result was well received over the business and exceeded expectations. This project is currently under development and we are providing continual support by sending user research guidelines and design guidelines to the developers.


Direct insights from our valued partners, capturing the essence of Spotless collaborations.

"Spotless worked with us as our business partner, always going the extra mile to ensure our needs were met in a professional and timely manner."

Sharon Stinton, Learning and Development Leader
GE Money

"We required 'out of the box' thinking, meticulous attention to detail, an instinctive understanding of game design and a high-level of UX expertise. We got all of this and more."


"Spotless has been extremely professional and the team have worked closely with us to achieve our objectives and helped us frame our thinking in ensuring the outcome matched our initial scope."

Jennie Curran, Client Relationship Manager
BBDO Stoy Hayward

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