DRUE Bremner is upbeat about the prospects for Scottish oil and gas, optimistic that the Aberdeen-based industry still has a bright future, despite well-documented recent challenges.

“The sector is leaner and more competitive than it has been for some time,” says the 42-year-old, who has been working offshore for the best part of two decades. “Over the next couple of years I think we’ll start to see a considerable number of projects and jobs coming back online.”

One of the reasons for such renewed confidence is the emergence of new technology and Mr Bremner is at the forefront of an ambitious plan to revolutionise the sector’s safety inspection process through the use of drones.

Following his enrolment in Aberdeen’s Elevator business start-up scheme, the entrepreneur hooked up with a fellow participant and the pair are gradually changing industry perceptions about what drone technology is capable of, providing a safer, faster and more cost-effective alternative to rope access teams.

“To send a team to inspect the flare tip of an offshore rig you’re looking at a minimum of three people,” explains Mr Bremner. “Rigs can be down more than a million pounds a day in revenue through the loss of production during that time. There’s also real safety considerations with three men working at height and a standby vessel required.

“In the time it takes to harness the team, I could have a drone in the sky and have collected enough detailed information to produce a preliminary report, all without having to shut down the flare.

“Obviously a gas leak would be catastrophic so inspection is a key part of the whole process and there’s considerable weight on the shoulders of the inspectors. Drones provide a genuine breakthrough.”

The Aberdonian father-of-three, who spent 17 years in a harness inspecting rigs around the globe, admits he was dismissive of drones at first. But after meeting Goshawk founder Jason Bird, an expert in artificial intelligence and robotics, the pair realised they had a strong foundation to bring game-changing technology to the sector.

“It’s all about getting the right balance,” adds Mr Bremner, who left school at 15. “A can-do attitude can get you so far, as can real world experience, but in this sector you also need a more analytical and academic approach.

“I’m very much a risk-taker, but methodology is just as important and Goshawk has a good mix of all these skills.

“I’m the one on the ground who comes up with the idea and Jason has to work out how to make it work.”

The partners are now hoping to harness support from the Oil and Gas Technology Centre in Aberdeen, a body set up by industry and the Scottish and UK Governments to invest in and promote the sector, that would allow them to take drone and other technologies in the offshore inspection process even further.

Mr Bremner admits growing a technology business is challenging, but says what motivates him is a wish to repay the sacrifices made over the last few years by his wife Joanne, who also works in the industry, daughters Morgan, 17, and twins Caitlin and Ellie, 14.

“The biggest investor in me has been Joanne. Without her carrying the family finances for last two years, this would not have been possible for me. This is a real family business – we are all invested in it.”

And he is hugely appreciative of the crucial role played by business accelerator schemes such as Elevator.

“Making sure you have the right team around is key to success,” says Mr Bremner. “You need to be able to be honest – I call it the sticking plaster approach, if something isn’t working, pull it off.

“Enrol in a mentoring programme that helps you examine your idea under a microscope to dig into whether it will work.

“It can be very tough to hear the truth, especially because when you are starting a business you can become blinkered. The advice and validation you get through mentoring is vital. Listen to successful business people whether they are from your sector or not.

“Set your goal and focus on how you are going to get to the destination.”