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From aerial surveys of real estate listings to bird’s-eye views of sports stadiums, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) offer vantage points that are useful to a broad range of industries.
Capitalizing on the growth of this technology is the goal of Adam Sax, who founded Sky Guys Ltd. in March of 2015. With 14 full-time employees at its offices in Oakville, Ont., and Vancouver – and with two more locations in the works for Alberta and Newfoundland – Sky Guys started out targeting businesses in real estate, urban planning, film and television.
“We have continued to grow in those areas but have refocused on niche industrial industries,” Mr. Sax says, such as oil and gas pipeline monitoring, power and utility inspection and mapping services and large-scale manufacturing inspection.
Sky Guys also started creating its own proprietary technology and it is planning to launch a UAV school for companies that want to train employees in the art of flying drones.
“We’ve been working with the University of Toronto,” Mr. Sax says. “We’ve built a small team of aerospace engineers in-house and we’ve been working on some pretty neat long-range technology specifically for industries like oil and gas and power and utilities.”
He estimates that Sky Guys will post revenue of about $700,000 for 2016, and he is projecting $3.5-million for next year.
While most of the company’s clients are Canadian, Mr. Sax recently travelled to Saudi Arabia to pitch oil and gas firms.
These companies have traditionally used small aircraft with a pilot and a photographer to monitor pipelines. The photographer takes photos of any faults and then reports them later. This can get expensive; Mr. Sax says one of Sky Guys’ clients spends $50-million a year in pipeline monitoring in Canada alone.
The long-range technology that Sky Guys is developing will cover all of this client’s pipeline across Canada but also process the procured data and manage it in real time while in the air. “We’re reducing the cost of collecting the data, we’re actually managing it and we’re removing any human safety provisions,” Mr. Sax adds.
One of the problems that Sky Guys has encountered, however, is that, particularly in the oil and gas sector, there is a mistrust of disruptive technology and a tendency to maintain the status quo.
“We face challenges to convince those industries to try something new and different,” he says. “[Our technology] puts existing jobs at risk and creates new jobs, so there’s always a comfort issue for industries to take on something so new.”
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