Drone maker SkyX plans to offer autonomous drone services to companies in the oil and gas industry, enabling them to inspect pipelines from above with its specialized SkyOne UAV.
One of the biggest challenges faced in the oil & gas industry is pipeline inspection. Leaks or damage to this critical infrastructure can be difficult to detect, especially when lines cover many miles, often crossing unwelcoming terrain. According to the International Energy Agency, energy companies spend more than $37 billion globally every year on pipeline monitoring alone.
Ontario-based SkyX is stepping up to address the challenge, with a unique aerial solution. The company claims its SkyOne drone can fly further and faster for longer than standard quadcopters, detecting leaks, vandalism, vegetation encroachment and more as it does so.
No need for a runway
The SkyOne drone is something of a hybrid. As well as being a fixed-wing craft, propellers allow it to perform vertical take-offs and landings (VTOLs).
As a VTOL drone, it can be dispatched anywhere, anytime, without the need for a runway. There are many commercial applications for drones, but few combine the speed and range of a fixed-wing craft with the practicality of a multi-rotor UAV in this way.
As well as improving efficiency, SkyX could well turn out to be less expensive for energy companies in the long run. Manned aerial inspections using helicopters are costly, and can’t match the potential 24/7, real-time data collection of the SkyOne.
Autonomous flight and charging
Autonomous drone flight has been seen before in the world of infrastructure inspection. US railway giant BNSF is currently using a fleet of fixed-wing drones to inspect miles of railroad, for example. But SkyX has one more ace up its sleeve that will appeal to energy companies: its drone has the ability to recharge itself in the field.
Instead of returning to an operator in order to recharge, the SkyOne can be used with a series of ‘xStations’, weather-shielded domes that act as pit stops during a continuous inspection routine.
Though progressive, exactly how this kind of technology will fit into the energy industry depends on the view of aviation authorities around the world. Both the American Federal Aviation Administration and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority have strict rules in place regarding flights beyond the visual range of the pilot.
Considering the SkyOne can travel at 150km per hour for 70 minutes, current legislation could be a barrier to SkyX’s ambitions.
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Game-changing product for oil & gas industry
SkyX was founded by Didi Horn, a former captain in the Israeli Air Force. He said: “We have built not only a fantastic, game-changing product for the oil & gas industry, but have also built a fantastic team of experts ready to get it out there. The market is, obviously, of huge global importance.
“We know that our technology can significantly cut costs and improve efficiency – helping the sector as a whole, along with each and every customer. Our unique solution, which combines both VTOL flight and autonomous remote charging puts us well ahead of the competition.”
SkyX will be offering its services through a leasing model, which will allow oil & gas companies to access custom data and information without being burdened by maintenance concerns.
“As a result,” said Horn, “we are en route for significant expansion, offering an unprecedented opportunity for a strategic investment partner to help us conquer and secure a significant market share in an ever-growing industry.”