Identified Technologies has created an automated drone and docking system for gathering data at industrial sites. The gas powered unmanned helicopter has an hour and a half flight time and can fly autonomously by following advanced magnetic sensors.
“Companies are developing now much smaller magnetic sensors that are lighter, and they have less power draw,” said Richard Hammack, a physical scientist for the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh, where one of the laboratory’s three autonomous helicopters is parked outside his South Park office.
The automated drone and docking system is tailored to gather data at oil and gas sites, with a particular focus on shale gas operations. The drone sits in its dock on a work site until it is instructed to take off, fly a programmed pattern over the site, and return to its dock. Then it uploads the data gathered during its flight so the site manager can access it on a computer.
Oil and gas companies generally use people on the ground or planes and helicopters in the air to perform frequent surveys and safety checks. “The options available to them are wildly expensive, very slow and very dangerous for anybody that’s deployed on site,” said Dick Zhang, CEO of Identified Technologies, an East Liberty drone company that he founded two years ago. “We saw this problem and proposed a solution.”