SkyX is a drone maker from Markham, Ontario. This startup has some unique designs for industrial drones. For instance, the SkyOne drone of the company can take off and land without needing a runway. That is, its takeoff and landing is more like that of a helicopter, but in flight, the drone resembles an airplane more closely. In technical terms of the drone industry, the SkyOne has both Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) and fixed-wing elements, while flying more than 40 km on one charge.
SkyOne has a plethora of sensors and cameras on-board, enabling the drone to collect data about anything below it. It then sends the collected data to cloud-based applications for analysis. For launching and landing the drone, SkyX provides proprietary charging stations, which the company calls xStations. When the drone is not moving, the xStation closes a shell over the UAV, protecting them from theft, and charging them. The charging stations charge the batteries within the drone directly, rather than removing and replacing them.
Other drone producing companies such as Matternet allow their UAVs to land on charging stations, where their depleted batteries are swapped with fresh ones. Charging stations can be positioned along a route, giving the drone a virtually unlimited range. This scenario is likely to continue unless battery technology and other power systems improve significantly.
Didi Horn, the founder and CEO of SkyX, had earlier worked for the Israel Air Force. As he always wanted to develop drones and aviation for commercial use, he went in for the long-range UAV consumer market, where the demand was huge, and the products scarce. According to Horn, the world already has millions of kilometers of oil and gas pipelines, all at the risk of leaks and/or terror attacks.
The oil and natural gas industry faces its biggest challenges when inspecting its pipelines for leakages or damages. Its critical infrastructure can be difficult to monitor, especially when the lines cover several kilometers, often crossing inhospitable terrain. For instance, the Internal Energy Agency claims the expenditure on pipeline monitoring alone costs energy companies more than $37 billion every year.
Initially, SkyX is targeting the energy industry, since its UAVs and charging stations can then be configured to cover long distances from one pumping station to the next along pipelines carrying oil and gas. According to Horn, the drones can also cover vast farms carrying acres of solar panels installed on them. Likewise, the UAVs can also be used for inspecting wind turbines installed in remote areas. As the xStations are capable of plugging into typical electrical outlets, they can be connected to solar panels or any other freestanding generators as well.
While the drones being used in the field today have some features still under development, SkyX is working with several energy companies for conducting pilot projects and safety tests in the US. Although the drones can fly autonomously, the company has to secure permissions for flying beyond the line of sight of human observers on the ground.
In the long run, apart from improving the efficiency, energy companies may find using drones from SkyX to be less expensive.