In 2015, the year that private applications for drone licenses began to skyrocket, Noah Ruiz saw a news story about how unmanned aerial systems (UAS) were being used for aerial photography – and saw untapped potential.
Within three months, he started Skynetwest, a data retrieval company that operates highly advanced UAS to collect information for mapping and infrastructure inspection. The company joined Chandler Innovations, Chandler’s business incubation and entrepreneurial development program. Chandler Innovations offers free assistance to companies looking to start or scale up operations. Skynetwest has been part of the program for the past 14 months.
Now, after three years of gradual growth, Skynetwest is embarking on an agreement with a major regional utility company for inspection work on power lines and generating stations. Ruiz could not disclose the utility’s identity as the scope of the agreement is being finalized, but said it could produce more than $100,000 in annual revenues for the company. Inspections done manually would likely cost more, be less comprehensive and more dangerous given they are done by individuals, according to Skynetwest Director of Strategy Sean Goetz.
“We can maneuver into difficult spaces,” he said. “We enable our clients to review data and perform inspections from the comfort and safety of their desktops in a way that’s faster and more detailed than visual inspections.”
Skynetwest does not charge clients by the time the drones are in the sky capturing data, but by the gigabytes of information the systems ultimately provide. Information provided to clients can range from paper topographical maps to highly encrypted data on thumb drives. Skynetwest data specialists are looking forward to ongoing developments in UAS technology that will allow the company to offer even more comprehensive views to its clients, including multispectral systems with sensors that will enable drone systems to “see” behind the object being inspected. As these innovations become available, Skynetwest plans to be on the forefront of their use.
“We want to set the new standards for collecting and digitizing information for mapping and infrastructure,” said Ruiz. “We’ve only just scratched the surface for the potential. We are establishing a means for engineers and builders to have a clearer view of their world.”