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Drone technology has undeniably transformed the traditional approach to industrial inspections, making them an essential part of their maintenance procedures. Traditional inspection methods, such as scaling cell towers, wind turbines, or scaffolding to examine industrial boilers, are being phased out in favor of drone inspections. Service providers can easily capture all necessary visual data without compromising inspector safety.

Autonomous drone technology has made this process even more simpler & cost-effective. With the help of drone-in–a-box systems, companies can now perform inspections in hard-to-reach areas without the need for specialized personnel to be on site. By a simple push of a button, energy companies can gather accurate information from remote locations, such as gas facilities, solar farms, and remote oil fields.

In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of using autonomous drone technology in industrial inspections, using case studies and insights shared at a NestGen'23 session by industry experts Kevin Toderel from RMUS Canada and Grant Hosticka from DJI, North America.

Phased Approach for Autonomous Drone Operations

To ensure regulatory compliance and operational safety, Kevin recommends a phased approach to drone implementation for industrial inspections. The approach involves a step-by-step progression in terms of removing human intervention and increasing automation in drone operations. The framework can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each project and it has proven to be effective, particularly in Canada. The four phases of this approach are as follows:

  1. Licensed Pilot with a RC and Visual Observer (VO): In the first phase, the drone operation starts with a licensed pilot operating the drone via RC while also acting as a visual observer. This requires no specific licensing and counts as a regular flight. The only difference between this and a regular flight is that the pilot will be operating through the dock, but will essentially be ready to take control with the RC in the event of an emergency.

  2. Dock and Software with VO having Return-to-Home Functionality: The pilot is removed from the drone operation in the second phase, and the drone is piloted remotely using cloud-based software. However, this operation remains within the visual line of sight since a visual observer (VO) is present on the site with a return-to-home functionality to take control of the drone in case of an emergency.

  3. Dock and Software with Complete Autonomy within VLOS: In the third phase, the drone operations are completely autonomous and the dock and the drone are remotely controlled from the command center without a licensed pilot or a VO on site. These operations however are conducted within the visual range and will test the ability of the drone to navigate on its own.

  4. Dock and Software for Fully BVLOS Ops: Drone operations extend beyond the range specified in phase 3 in the final phase, necessitating a waiver from the regulatory authority of the operating geography. These operations require the use of technology such as Detect and Avoid, UTMs, and others.

Applications of Drones in the Energy Industry

Let's take a closer look at some of the applications in the power generation industry where autonomous drone operations can generate value or make the most sense: 

Drones in Solar Farm Inspection

The solar industry is constantly looking for ways to streamline solar panel maintenance and reduce the time required for upkeep. A potential answer to this problem is the use of drones. Autonomous operations can make the process more efficient, allowing for faster and more accurate inspection.

"Maintenance personnel still spend far too much time looking for problems rather than maintaining equipment," Kevin points out, "and this is where autonomy and AI applications will provide the most bang for the buck."

The drones can be programmed to autonomously take off from their docks at a scheduled time, follow specific flight paths, capturing images of the solar panels from different angles. The images are then analyzed using AI algorithms to identify any faults or issues, such as damaged panels or vegetation growth. This information is relayed in real time to maintenance teams, who can then prioritize their efforts accordingly. 

Additionally, the same system can be used to track the progress of the solar farm's construction process and conduct security patrols. Designers can identify and correct any issues that may arise during the construction phase. Furthermore, the construction process can be made more transparent by providing regular updates to stakeholders.

Drones in Wind Turbines

The wind energy industry has long recognized the value of UAVs for blade inspections.

Even if you do not consider fully autonomous blade inspections, there are countless applications for drone technology in wind farms, especially if the drone is ready to be deployed at all times. 

One of the most significant advantages of using autonomous drone systems for wind turbine inspections is the ability to perform predictive maintenance and servicing. By regularly inspecting wind turbines, energy companies can detect damages and defects before they become severe, reducing the risk of downtime and increasing the lifespan of the turbine.

Kevin highlights, “Operators often have to suspend maintenance if they suspect there’s ice on the blades. One of the biggest use-case for drone-in-a-box automated operations would be to send drones to check if there is ice on the blades and whether it is safe for the team to go up for inspections.”

Drones for Inspecting Dam Spillways

The use of autonomous drone systems in detecting and responding to dam spillways has been gaining traction in recent years. Energy companies can reduce the risk of personnel injury by monitoring and inspecting the dam spillway from a safe distance.

Kevin shares an account about how they received a BVLOS waiver to conduct drone operations after a fatality occurred during a flood caused by dam water release. Before releasing the water, autonomous drones can perform a quick inspection of the spillway.

He emphasizes that each use-case has its own set of technical requirements. Considerations like whether the drone is below grade or whether an LTE or RF connection is necessary had to be made in the case of the dam spillways.

Drones for Inspecting Site Security

One of the most common use-case of autonomous drone systems is for site security and the power generation industry is no exception. Kevin mentions a case wherein the asset owner had to unfortunately experience an act of vandalism that caused extensive damage to the infrastructure. The damage caused by the vandalism totaled around four million dollars. If there were to be a drone docking station to monitor this frequently and mitigate this, the ROI from installing it would be immediately achieved.

Kevin was able to easily schedule repetitive perimeter patrol missions with high frequency using DJI Dock, even at temperatures ranging from 0 to 6 degrees. Furthermore, with software solutions such as FlytNow, motion detection sensors or existing security systems to trigger drone deployment based on alarms can be easily integrated.  Drone-in-a-box system for site security helps in reducing liability, avoiding repairs, downtime and property loss, making it a critical use case for a wide range of assets.

What Lies Ahead

Implementing autonomous drone operations in industries like power generation could present several challenges such as navigating the complex regulatory frameworks, technical development, and partnerships with third-party providers. Kevin emphasizes that, in order to address regulatory challenges, industry players collaborate with regulatory bodies and use phased approaches to build trust over time.

Technical challenges are addressed through R&D investments and collaborations with third-party providers to integrate complementary technologies. Partnership challenges are addressed by developing integrated solutions through open APIs and software development kits. Through these solutions, the benefits of autonomous drone operations can be realized while ensuring safety and regulatory compliance.

He concludes the session by stating the importance to remember that there is “no one-size-fits-all” solution in the drone industry. Different use cases will require different sensors and aircraft, and there will be a variety of hardware and software options available to meet these needs.

When considering partners for proof of concept projects, it's important to find a partner who can take a holistic approach to the project, considering all aspects of the drone solution from regulatory engagement to data hosting and security. With the right partners and solutions in place, drone-in-a-box systems have the potential to greatly improve efficiency, safety, and security across a wide range of industries.

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Pampa Energía, Argentina's largest independent energy company, specializes in the electricity, oil, and gas value chains. Headquartered in Buenos Aires, it engages in intense oil and gas exploration and production activities. It has a presence in 13 production areas and 5 exploration areas in the most significant basins of the nation. 

Through its power plants, the company has attained the capacity to generate about 5,000 barrels of oil and 9 million cubic meters of gas per day. In addition, it produces 4,970 MW of electricity through wind, hydroelectric, and thermal power plants. Listed on the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange (BCBA) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), it thrives on the vision of becoming an emblematic company known for its commitment, growth, and operational excellence.

How Pampa Energía Conducted Thermal Power Station Inspection with Drones

In 2017, Pampa Energía integrated drones into their asset inspection operations and have since expanded to a fleet of nine different drones to assist in their large-scale operations. During inspections, they primarily use the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced and Matrice 200 series drones for photo imaging and analysis.

These drones enable them to quickly cover large areas and capture tens of thousands of photographs, which are then stitched together into an orthomozaic to create an accurate representation of the plant. Pampa Energía conducts three types of inspections:

1. Periodic

Pampa requires periodic inspections of their pipelines, docks, tanks, chimneys, high-voltage towers, boilers, and electric grids, for example, every week. These inspections are crucial to ensure that assets are functioning correctly, as issues like corrosion or lateral structures near the pipeline often go unnoticed during a manual inspection.

2. Planned

Conducted once a year, these inspections primarily consist of land surveys of electric grids, roads, and terrain and are necessary for new construction and infrastructure development.

3. Triggered

Triggered inspections are only carried out when there is a specific problem that needs to be assessed, such as the surveillance of oilfields and pipelines.

Challenges Faced by Pampa Energía with Manual Drone Inspections

As the demand for energy in Argentina grew, continuous monitoring and preventive maintenance of the Genelba Thermal Power Plant (CTGEBA) became critical to ensure uninterrupted operations. With a total capacity of 1,253 MW, representing 2.9% of the nation's installed capacity, the plant required frequent inspections to maintain safety and efficiency. However, as the plant expanded, manual inspections became increasingly challenging and time-consuming, leading to two major difficulties:

1. Increase in drone inspection rounds

As the Genelba Thermal Power Plant grew in size, it required a large number of manual visual inspection rounds to be carried out to cover the new equipment. This gradually increased the time required to cover the entire power plant for thermal inspection. The available inspectors were no longer able to cover the entire power plant in a single shift, resulting in a significant gap in the inspection timeline.

2. Difficulty in conducting perimeter security tours

The site, which is located in the province of Buenos Aires, is more than 970,000 square feet in size, making it one of the country's largest thermal power plants.

Because the team had to constantly set up their base station, replace drone batteries, and transfer data manually after a certain distance, conducting security tours throughout the plant became much more difficult and time-consuming.

Optimizing Inspection of Thermal Power Plants with Drone-in-a-Box Solution

As part of its Digital Transformation strategy, Pampa Energía sought to optimize the inspection routes at the Genelba power plant. Rather than hiring additional employees and drone pilots, they decided to explore the use of autonomous drones to simultaneously carry out maintenance planning, inspections and security operations.

Phased Implementation Process

The deployment has been carried out in several stages, as follows:

  • First, a proof of concept test was conducted to evaluate various docking stations, battery recharge technologies, and control software.
  • The selected technologies were then purchased, and a highly thorough series of tests were run to ensure that the equipment's functionality and how it interacted with one another were both verified.
  • A determined and tested set of paths were determined for the drone.

Additionally, the present and upcoming team members also received training on how to use this technology to carry out drone missions.

The biggest benefit that drone-in-a-box systems provided was the dual functionality. The team at Pampa intended to deploy these systems across their power plants for inspection as well as security. The inspection team could use the docking station to do monitoring and maintenance of the plants during the daytime and in the nighttime they use the same devices for security.

Why Pampa Energía Chose FlytNow as their DiaB Operations Software

As Marcelo Lopez, Pampa Energía's Project Manager, pointed out “We wanted to optimize inspection routes at the Genelba power plant since the area was too large for inspectors to cover in a single shift. We decided to employ the FlytNow-powered autonomous drone-in-a-box solution due to its superior unattended flight technology and affordable price. The FlytNow customer success team has been dedicated to resolving customer issues. They are aware of industry developments, are attentive to their customer's needs, and capable of handling challenges.”

Here’s how they benefited from autonomous drone-in-a-box systems powered by FlytNow:

1. Improvement in inspection rounds:

FlytNow enabled Pampa Energía's operations team and inspectors to schedule and execute repeatable drone missions along pre-established routes, stopping at specific points of interest to view assets remotely.

The remote control of the drone's camera payload allowed for efficient zooming to detect faults or abnormalities in the power plants. Compared to manual inspections, FlytNow resulted in faster and more efficient rounds, significantly reducing the time and effort required to inspect large areas like the Genelba plant. 

Here’s how an inspection routine looked like:

Furthermore, the team utilized drone docking stations to perform security patrols at regular intervals, effectively monitoring the premises for any potential intrusions. By deploying drones to the site prior to security personnel, the team was able to proactively prepare for incidents, while simultaneously saving time and resources in terms of fuel and personnel typically required for routine patrols. The image below depicts a typical security patrol mission:

2. Reduction in accidents:

Given that, in a thermal power station the potential for devastating mishaps due to high pressures and temperatures is very high, it is crucial to ensure the safety of workers while maintaining the smooth operation of the plant. With the ability to send drones autonomously at a click of a button, the team can now access hard-to-reach or dangerous areas with ease, without having to send the local team in harm’s way.

By remotely monitoring the plant's critical infrastructure and systems, the team can quickly identify and address any issues before they escalate into major accidents, thereby reducing the risks associated with human error.

Additionally, FlytNow with a host of security features enabled the safety of the drone & the dock as well. With features such as:

  • Failsafes: FlytNow is equipped with various failsafe mechanisms that provide assistance in case of emergencies. For instance, in the event of a lost RC link or internet connectivity, the drone can either pause until the connection is restored or perform a controlled emergency landing at a predetermined safe location in case of low battery alerts. These failsafe mechanisms and timeout settings can be easily customized and configured by the team to ensure optimal safety during drone operations.

  • Geofence: The operators also have the ability to create virtual fences around the area of their operation and prevent the drone from entering restricted zones by taking specific actions if the fence is breached.

  • Collision avoidance: FlytNow enables collision avoidance by constantly scanning the drone's surroundings for potential obstacles. A real-time radar map with red, yellow, and green indicators is displayed on the operator's screen, allowing them to safely maneuver the drone around obstacles. This feature provides an additional layer of safety and helps prevent accidents, making it easier to navigate through challenging or unknown environments.

3. Better precise documentation:

The advanced video and image capture capabilities of FlytNow provide operators with a clear and accurate view of the plant in real-time. Moreover, the cloud media sync feature enabled operators to conveniently upload media from their drone's SD card directly to a pre-configured private cloud storage (AWS S3), without any disruption in their workflow. The archived data can be stored, organized, and shared across various stakeholders directly from the FlytNow dashboard to increase operational efficiency and situational awareness.

4. Real-time guest share:

By using FlytNow, remote inspections can be conducted from a centralized command center and shared in real-time with stakeholders both inside and outside the plant. With role-based access, security officers can access the video feed on their preferred device and take action as needed. The "Video Streaming Optimization" feature allows for optimization of the video stream for better FPS or picture quality even in areas with limited or poor bandwidth connections. The video below demonstrates a typical operation conducted at the Genelba Power Plant. 

The Way Ahead for Pampa Energía with Autonomous DiaB Solution

As the second-highest per capita energy consumer in South America, Argentina faces increasing demand for electricity, driven by the need for space heating. With thermal power plants being the most reliable source of energy generation, their continuous operation is crucial to meet the country's energy needs.

Once the Pampa Energía's deployment of autonomous drones at the Genelba power plant proves to be successful in enhancing operational efficiency and reducing the risk of accidents, the company plans to expand its drone-in-a-box program to several other power plants, ensuring a safer and more efficient operation while maximizing the return on investment.

Achal Negi, Director of Business Development at FlytBase, highlights the potential drone-in-a-box systems hold for the future of thermal plant inspection and monitoring. He concludes by stating that: “Currently, manual inspection of thermal power plants is a time-consuming and potentially hazardous task for workers. By using autonomous drones for these inspections, energy companies can increase efficiency and safety for workers and reduce any potential down-time of the plant. Furthermore, the use of automated drones for thermal power station inspection with drones and docks offer more frequent and thorough inspections and also improve night-time security operations for power stations. We will see more autonomous drone-in-a-box deployments in power plants in the coming years.”

At NestGen ‘22, Marcelo Lopez, discussed their operations in detail. Watch the entire video to learn more:

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As the world's primary fuel sources, oil and natural gas are major industries in the energy industry and have a significant impact on the global economy. Demand for petroleum and petroleum products has only increased in the recent past due to global economic and population growth, as well as continual urbanization and industrialization.

The United States itself has more than 190,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines and over 2.4 million miles of natural gas pipelines. Pipeline transportation is safer, more efficient, and emits fewer GHGs than shipping by ship, truck, or rail.

The Current Challenges with Pipeline Inspections:

Pipelines are vital infrastructure for the transmission of oil and natural gas, connecting producing areas to refineries, chemical plants, home customers, and commercial demands. However, oil and natural gas are combustible and explosive substances that are typically delivered via high-temperature, high-pressure pipeline networks. Hereby, it is critical to monitor these pipelines to ensure that they are operating effectively.

However, traditional pipeline inspection methods have some issues, such as:

Use of crewed aircraft

Currently, the majority of energy companies use helicopters to monitor encroachment in potential pipeline Right-Of-Ways (ROW). Each expedition costs an average of $150,000, making more regular inspections than every six months almost impractical.

Foot Patrols

Once the aircraft confirms an encroachment, foot patrols, typically consisting of two personnel, are dispatched to these remote locations. Such manual site inspections take approximately 8 hours and cost approximately $500 merely to have a closer look and validate the threat.

conducting pipeline monitoring for oil and gas companies with manual methods
conducting pipeline monitoring for oil and gas companies with manual methods

Inability to send crew at all times

Pipelines can be hundreds of kilometers long and can be spread over vast remote locations. Sending operators to such locations can put human life at risk. Hereby, it becomes quite difficult to send inspection teams to cover such areas at all times. 

Time-consuming method

Traveling from one asset to another is frequently difficult. Operators may need to drive lengthy miles along gravel or dirt roads to visit several inspection sites. The distance and hard terrain may need a significant amount of time.

Drone program can help in conducting inspection for oil and gas companies without human intervention

How can Drones with BVLOS Capabilities Help Oil and Gas Companies Secure Pipelines 

Ease of travel between assets

Drone program can help in conducting inspection for oil and gas companies without human intervention
Drone program can help in conducting inspection for oil and gas companies without human intervention

Traveling between assets during inspection operations might become challenging because these pipes can span thousands of meters. The team may be required to travel long distances and to distant regions where there is no adequate road infrastructure.

Operators must travel to the sites, assess the asset, review their data, and then drive to another asset. Furthermore, they must repeat the entire process until all assets have been inspected. This can take a significant amount of time which can be costly for an industry like oil and gas.

However, drones can travel vast distances and reach difficult-to-access locations. Additionally, using drone-in-a-box systems, eliminate the need for continual re-launching, packing, and landing of drones which is majorly faced in manual-led VLOS operations.

Increase worker safety

Oftentimes, assets are located on high terrains or difficult-to-reach locations. Operators may need to set up substantial scaffolding or dangle from ropes to inspect this equipment. Any mistake here can result in severe consequences. Despite the industry's strict regulations and safety standards, health and safety concerns persist. A BVLOS operation eliminates the operator's danger by allowing them to undertake the flight mission from any remote location.

Simplify early detection of pipeline leaks

Example of leak in the gas pipeline is affecting the surrounding environment
Example of leak in the gas pipeline is affecting the surrounding environment

Drones are increasingly being used in the oil and gas industry for early detection of pipeline leaks. By using advanced drone technology including thermal cameras and visual or infrared cameras, these drones help the operators to identify gas leaks in storage tanks and pipelines with greater accuracy and efficiency than traditional methods.

These drones can easily access hard-to-reach areas and capture high-quality photos and videos of the pipelines and storage tanks. These data can be helpful to conduct image analytics for accurate and early detection of potential leaks or damage.

This allows operators to respond quickly and effectively to potential pipeline failure, minimizing the impact on the environment and reducing the risk of accidents. The use of drones also reduces the potential for human error, as operators can monitor the pipelines remotely, without the need for physical inspections.

Reduce heavy costs

Hiring a pilot and a helicopter, for example, can cost thousands of dollars. Regular inspections may become prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Autonomous drone missions can minimize such costs while also minimizing human dependency.

Utilize readymade data and analytics via automated procedures

A human-led operation requires the operator to drive to the location and visually inspect the asset. Via autonomous operations, drone operators can run pre-planned drone flights and augment the inspection process. The drone will follow its routine, capture and store data which can be further assessed for detailed inspection as per need.

This enables the operator to quantify their assessment with turnkey data and analytics delivered via automated workflows. This simplifies the entire process and backs it up with data, which greatly aids decision-making. 

Ability to scale operations

While examining pipelines spanning thousands of kilometers, it becomes nearly impossible to conduct manual operations consistently. However, autonomous drones can be scaled up and deployed readily to fit the business's needs as they can be programmed to conduct the desired tasks. 

How FlytNow is Enabling BVLOS Operations

BVLOS operations in pipeline inspection
BVLOS operations in pipeline inspection

FlytNow is a cloud-based solution that enables the deployment and management of drones in just a few clicks, allowing you to manage your drone operations via a single web-based dashboard for a seamless experience. It helps you lower travel costs, reduce operation rounds, and increase productivity by saving travel time. It is integrated with ready-to-use intelligent modules, like collision avoidance, and precision landing, and integration with drone-in-a-box systems, which further helps you shorten your time to market.

The FlytNow software solution enables project managers to schedule pre-planned or on-demand flights from a command center located miles away from the base station. The drone takes off from the drone nest autonomously, flies its mission, captures real-time videos and images, and uploads them to the cloud.

Store images and videos on cloud and Identify leaks on pipelines with FlytNow's solution
Store images and videos on cloud and Identify leaks on pipelines with FlytNow's solution

Following the flight, the drone returns to the docking station for battery swapping and storage. These stations can charge up to four batteries simultaneously and swap out the existing battery in less than 90 seconds, ensuring minimal downtime. Furthermore, because it is lightweight, it can easily fit on the back of a pickup truck and be moved from one location to another if necessary.

3rd party integrations in FlytNow, such as Casia G system by Iris Automation for detection and avoidance of cooperative and non-cooperative aircraft, Altitude Angel for airspace awareness, and others, assist to increase capabilities for greater insights and seamless BVLOS operations.

Leveraging Nested Drone Systems (NDS)

How nested drone system helping in pipeline inspection
How nested drone system helping in pipeline inspection

The Nested Drone Systems (NDS) can significantly improve the data collection process and transform how pipelines are inspected. It lets the drone operator conduct long-duration flights without the need to return the drone to the command center to recharge or swap the battery. With the nested drone system, energy companies would be able to quickly scale up, undergo a digital transformation, run safely, and boost productivity.

Nitin Gupta, Founder & CEO of FlytBase, Inc. concludes by stating that “Nested Drone Solutions are rapidly revolutionizing the way repeatable, high-frequency missions are conducted across use-cases. Maintenance of pipelines, spread over thousands of miles, is a great application of this technology with a significant ROI for the end-user.


1) How can drones improve the safety of inspections on oil and gas pipelines?

Drones can play a vital role in improving the safety of inspections in the oil and gas industry. With their ability to fly closer to the ground, drones can provide high-resolution aerial data through the use of visual or infrared cameras. This allows for more precise and thorough inspections of pipelines, particularly in hard-to-reach areas. 

By using drones, workers can avoid the potential dangers of inspecting pipelines on foot, such as exposure to crude oil leaks. Additionally, the use of drones allows for earlier detection of leaks, which can prevent potential disasters and safeguard the environment.

2) What are the benefits of using drones for pipeline inspections?

Drones provide several benefits for pipeline inspections, including accuracy and improved technologies. Using drones to detect leaks and identify potential issues can save costs and equipment compared to traditional inspection methods. Drones can also access dangerous terrain and provide quick emergency response. 

In addition, using drones for regular inspection can improve worker safety by avoiding the need for workers to enter hazardous areas. Visual or infrared cameras on drones can monitor pipelines and identify potential issues, whether it be for gas or oil pipelines. With better data and improved maintenance, major accidents can be avoided through the use of drones for pipeline inspections.

3) How can FlytNow help in pipeline inspection using drone-in-a-box systems?

Using FlytNow-powered drones for pipeline inspection, operators can now easily detect any leaks in the pipeline with greater accuracy and efficiency than traditional methods. It allows the team to access difficult-to-reach areas and avoid putting any human in potential danger.

Furthermore, operators can get a real-time video stream of the assets, and also capture high-quality photos and videos of the pipelines and storage tanks. This significantly helps in conducting accurate inspections and detecting potential leaks or damage.

4) What can we expect in upcoming technologies in oil and gas pipeline inspection?

New technologies will include autonomous drones that are packed with a cost-effective platform that will help in inspecting pipelines, provide insight for maintenance activities, and identify human errors. Moreover, they will be equipped with a visual or infrared camera that can detect leaks or damage on its own and inform the team immediately.

5) What are some of the best drones for pipeline inspections in the oil and gas industry?

There are several drones that are well-suited for use in pipeline inspections in the oil and gas industry. Some options include:

  1. DJI Phantom 4 RTK: This drone has a high-resolution camera and RTK GPS for precise mapping and surveying capabilities.
  2. DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual: This drone has a compact design and can fly in challenging weather conditions. It also has a dual thermal and visible light camera for identifying issues in pipelines.
  3. senseFly eBee X: This drone has a long flight time and can fly in autonomous missions to cover large areas quickly. It also has a high-resolution camera for detailed inspection.
  4. Parrot Anafi USA: This drone has a 4K HDR camera and is capable of flying in challenging environments. It is also lightweight and easy to transport.
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BVLOS powerline inspection over a city using VTOL UAVs

Skyqraft, a data-driven infrastructure inspection company from Sweden, was granted BVLOS operation permission for the Vertical Technologies DeltaQuad VTOL UAV, to inspect a large portion of the Swedish power grid.

Fully Autonomous

Flying fully autonomous from takeoff to landing, using long-range radio transmission combined with LTE based video and control links, Skyqraft was able to perform multiple BVLOS missions gathering high-resolution images for over 1000KM of powerlines. The resulting data is used for early indicators of failures to the powerlines, isolators, and towers.

The missions are planned to follow the powerlines at a safe altitude using automatic terrain following. The onboard camera is automatically triggered to record high-resolution photographs of the selected path while the operator receives live video and keeps a control link over long distances. Using ADS-B transponder receivers the pilot is made aware of any aviation up to 100km away.

Beyond Visual Line Of Sight Waiver

A DeltaQuad Pro #MAP was initially trialed in Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) and Extended Visual Line Of Sight (EVLOS). The success of these trials, combined with the advanced failsafe features and a redundant flight system, led the Swedish authorities to issue Skyqraft an additional waiver for the DeltaQuad to fly extended-range missions and to cross populated areas.

With the waiver secured, and after several BVLOS missions over scarcely populated areas, the DeltaQuad was instructed to perform 2 missions crossing the city of Gävle autonomously covering 90KM of powerlines. A significant step forward as this was the first official autonomous BVLOS flight of a fixed-wing UAV over a Swedish city.

To date, Skyqraft has logged over 30 flight-hours BVLOS and inspected more than a thousand kilometers of powerlines.

Machine Learning fault detection

Using the latest technologies in the field of machine learning, the resulting data sets are automatically analyzed and, faults to any of the core components are flagged for manual review.

Every confirmed fault is added to a daily report combined with imagery and exact geographic location. The reports are dispatched to the designated maintenance teams who in most cases can act within 24 hours of detection.

About Skyqraft

Skyqraft employs several UAV operators, AI programmers, and data analysts to provide powerline inspection. By closely collaborating with local authorities, airports, and energy companies they can efficiently gather high-quality data, and by using computer vision based machine learning algorithms they produce a reliable risk assessment that allows energy companies to stay ahead of impending grid failures.

“The DeltaQuad has enabled us to inspect areas that were virtually inaccessible using regular inspection drones. The advanced planning features allow us to create terrain-following missions in minutes, and even on our longest flights we use less than half of the available battery capacity. The Vertical Takeoff and Landing allows us to operate basically anywhere, and the long-range capabilities significantly reduce the time and effort required to collect the data we need.

Vertical Technologies has been a great partner supporting us in every aspect of our UAV operations. The DeltaQuad drones have been performing with such consistent stability and reliability that they are now the core platform in our operations.”


Skyqraft is currently extending its operations to the United States where they are in the process of receiving the first BVLOS waiver for a fixed-wing VTOL UAV from the FAA. For more information on Skyqraft please visit

About the DeltaQuad

The DeltaQuad is a fully autonomous fixed-wing UAV with Vertical Takeoff and Landing capabilities. It can travel up to 100KM in a single flight while carrying industrial-grade sensors such as 61MP camera systems, or dual infrared and RGB surveillance gimbals.

The DeltaQuad is produced by Vertical Technologies, a Netherlands based manufacturer of commercial-grade VTOL drones for Surveillance, Transport, Mapping, and Inspection. For more information on the DeltaQuad VTOL UAV please visit

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