This post originally appeared on http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/business/business-news/north-east-firms-partner-develop-11240257.
[Editor’s Note: The drones would be used for inspecting oil tankers and offshore platforms.]
Two North East companies are partnering on a life-saving innovation that could revolutionise how large marine structures like oil tankers and offshore platforms are inspected and tested throughout the world.
Currently, such work – which is undertaken regularly to prevent corrosion and structural faults – is carried out manually in enclosed areas that are often hazardous and poorly lit. This poses major safety risks and leads to dozens of deaths each year.
Now, however, the Gateshead-based coating and corrosion specialist Safinah Ltd has teamed up with fellow North East firm Drone Ops to work on a solution.
The companies first came together at Rise and Design, a monthly networking event at the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead, where initial discussions were held about using advanced drones, equipped with sensors and scanners, to carry out the work, removing risk to human life, while improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
A follow-up workshop designed to gauge the interest of global oil and shipping companies, then, attracted high profile names like Shell, Maersk and Nippon Paint Marine Coatings, as well leading North East businesses like Akzo Nobel and Barrier UK.
Before the event had even begun, one party had offered a large investment. By the mid-point, a third of the funding necessary to take the development to the next stage had been secured.
Safinah and Drone Ops say a number of significant barriers must still be overcome – the drones, for example, must be able to carry multiple sensors, map large areas under inspection and navigate through enclosed spaces.
However, the companies are confident they can develop a world first which will become the industry standard.
With a significant amount of interest from a number of major businesses, they will work with investors over the next two years to bring the concept to fruition.
Drone experts converge on Newcastle to highlight new technology
Justin Pringle, chief technology officer at Drone Ops, which has bases in Newcastle and Amble, said: “Meeting Safinah at the Rise and Design event has allowed us to put our business skills together and partner with an exciting proposal to bring major enterprise to the region.
“As a start-up focused on disruptive technology development and manufacture here in the North East, we could not have asked for a better group of friendly, dynamic businesses to meet with.”
Rise and Design is held on the second Friday of every month.
Hosted by Design Network North, the event sees members and non-members meet to discuss design practices and discover new business opportunities.
Mr Pringle and Raouf Kattan of Safinah attended a session based on the theme of virtual reality.
Head of Design Network North, Terry McStea, said: “Our network was set up to help innovative, forward thinking professionals meet, but we could not have imagined it would play a part in so many great partnerships, such as this one.
“We’ve always believed in the people of the North East and their potential to create not just brilliant products, but world-changing products.
“We will be following Drone Ops and Safinah’s success and will look to support them in any way we can.”