Ontario company joins race to monitor pipelines with drones

SkyX's vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicle. Image: SkyX

As drone use proliferates in both the industrial and consumer markets, a Toronto-area company started by a former Israeli Air Force captain and drone pilot is launching pipeline monitoring drones capable of recharge themselves, offering maximum range at minimum cost.

Founded by chief executive officer Didi Horn, SkyX has developed vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicles to inspect pipelines for damage, as well as for mapping and security surveillance.

The SkyOne vehicle can travel at 150 kilometres per hour for 70 minutes and can detect events such as leaks, vandalism and vegetation encroachment, said the company, which announced its public launch this week as it prepares to secure its round A financing.

Offered on a service-leasing model, SkyOne is able to recharge itself in the field. Using SkyX proprietary technology, the drone can fly to the nearest available xStation, where it recharges in a weather-shielded dome before continuing its mission.

"We have built not only a fantastic, game-changing product for the oil and gas industry, but have also built a fantastic team of experts ready to get it out there,” Horn said in a statement. “Our unique solution, which combines both VTOL flight and autonomous remote charging puts us well ahead of the competition. As a result, we are en route for significant expansion, offering an unprecedented opportunity for a strategic investment partner to help us conquer and secure significant market share in an ever-growing industry."

The oil and gas sector generally relies on road vehicles and manned aircraft to detect any damage or threat to pipelines. Drones outfitted with various monitoring technologies have been available for a few years, though their use in remote areas has been restricted by fight rules that generally require only line-of-sight patrols.

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