The Ontario-based inspection firm deploys its SkyOne UAS on a 100-km, single-trip pipeline survey mission
Back in August we took a look at the UAV technology being developed by Ontario-based SkyX Systems.
The company developed its own SkyOne drone design which combines the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities of a quadcopter with the endurance of a fixed-wing UAV, offering an alternative to the long-range pipeline surveys usually carried out by helicopters or light aircraft. The system can be equipped with a range of imaging technologies, from basic visual image capture to thermal, infrared, LIDAR and other multispectral data, providing a detailed insight into remote energy assets.
Used in tandem with a deployable charging hangar (aka SkyBox) and proprietary monitoring software, the so-called SkyX Solution claims to be “the most sophisticated and integrated long-range infrastructure monitoring platform available.”
In early December the company announced that SkyOne had completed one of the longest unmanned aerial surveys in its UAV class. Deployed in Mexico, the unmanned aerial aystem (UAS) collected data on an autonomous mission over more than 100 km of gas pipeline in little over an hour.
Moreover, the flight was programmed and monitored remotely from the company’s SkyCenter mission control thousands of miles away in Toronto, co-ordinating with a support crew of engineers on the ground in Mexico.
Collecting high-resolution imagery over the course of one of its flights SkyOne detected more than 200 potentially significant anomalies along the pipeline, which ranged from unauthorised buildings and cultivation, through to a fissure potentially caused by seismic activity, SkyX reported. All of these were geo-referenced, allowing the operator to follow up with targeted inspections following the mission.
Moreover, it added, the 100-km flight gathered the same amount of data in just over an hour as a manual inspector would manage in over a week.
“This mission was ground-breaking,” says SkyX founder and CEO Didi Horn. “We have proven our solution in a rugged environment which presented network communications challenges. Our Mexican partner was stunned not only by our results, but by the speed and accuracy with which we delivered them.”
Thinking out the Box
With successful operations under its belt, SkyX is currently finalising a second round of financing, and is seeking new investors. The company has so far reached 25% of its targeted funding.
Asked about plans for the use of this funding, CEO Horn told InnovOil: “Our goal is to be continue to perfect the system and ensure we are ready for market. That will involve more staff, more development, and also the deployment of other sensors in SkyOne as we demonstrate different kinds of data acquisition.”
Next year will see some of that investment put to use. “We already have one confirmed client,” Horn added. “We plan to be deploying our SkyX System by the end of Q2 at that location, and into other markets very soon after that. We've had letters of intent [LoIs] from companies in Argentina, Brazil and Spain. There will also be continued demonstrations for clients and further production of SkyOnes and SkyBoxes.”
The system’s capabilities will also be expanded – the team is currently evaluating the use of forward-looking infrared (FLIR) imaging and examining other technologies capable of sensing or seeing hydrocarbons. “We'll undoubtedly continue to push efficiency, but with the possibility of SkyBoxes set out every 100 km or so, range is not really an issue. But yes, absolutely there will be a lot of work on potential payloads and data analysis via machine learning/AI,” Horn added.
With interest now piqued around the world, and autonomous inspection entering the mainstream, 2018 could be a busy year for the company indeed.