Sudbury’s rise of the drones

sudsbury airvu

This post originally appeared on http://www.thesudburystar.com/2016/04/12/sudburys-rise-of-the-drones.

[Editor’s Note: One of AirVU’s future projects includes flying a construction site before any work begins, as well as, flying the same site every week after to track progress.]

Keenan Kusan, For The Sudbury Star

The future is here, and that future is drone technology.

That is the precedent set by Stephen Costello, president of AirVU UAV Engineering and Costello Utility Consultants, based in Sudbury.

Costello has invested over six-figures into a new, high-tech aerial drone from Waterloo-based Aeryon Labs named simply the Skyranger. This is the same model used by the RCMP and the OPP.

“This is a machine that started off in the military space that has been adapted for civilian use,” said Costello. “We want to use this primarily as an engineering tool.”

AirVU already has a drone that has flown more than 60 flights in the past year for various uses in the engineering field. The images captured from the drone flights are used to create highly detailed 3D models, accurate to up to two centimetres.

Costello said that this is useful in his field of high-voltage electrical engineering, especially using the infrared camera on the Skyranger.

“Poor connections get hot and this camera will pick them up,” said Costello, who has been educating himself in UAV technology for two years. “It’s virtually impossible to do that now. You can fly it, see where the problems are and correct them before they fail.”

Past jobs that AirVU has used its previous, medium-grade drone include inspection of distribution circuits in terrain that would have been nearly impossible to reach. The company also used the drone to model an electrical substation outside of North Bay.

Costello said by using drone technology instead of conventional surveying equipment, it saved the substation over $25,000. This saving can also be felt on time; Costello said UAV tech can shave weeks off of a job.

Costello said that the uses of both of AirVU’s drones extend past electrical engineering.

“The use of this technology is really understated right now and I think in five years time, it is going to be a common tool for engineering, mining, forestry and agriculture,” he said. “In mining, we can calculate volumes of excavations or stockpiles of material just by flying over it.”

AirVU officials are also planning to speak to municipal police on the possibilities on using drones for search and rescue purposes, putting the new infrared camera to use.

As for other uses, Costello said company officials will be taking the Skyranger to a construction job next week.

“We’re going to fly the site before construction starts and then fly it every week so we can track the progress of the job,” said Costello.

The drone is also the only one on the market that is in compliance with Transport Canada. A six- to eight-week application process is no longer necessary with the Skyranger, considering all flight conditions are met.

As president of both entities, Costello said he will be running AirVU in much the same fashion as Costello Utility Consultants.

“We’ve approached flying in the same way we approach everything else,” he said. “We hire very well experienced people, the best in their field.”

AirVU will only be using licensed aircraft pilots, which Costello said was overkill, but he wants to make sure he approached both the facets of engineering and drone aviation with same mindset.

Costello also said UAV technology is only going grow.

“I go to a UAV conference every two to three months and it’s completely different every time,” he said, expecting to see more innovation when he attends a conference in May.

He said that his two businesses will be working hand-in-hand.

“We’re taking two professional disciplines, professional pilots and professional engineers,” he said, “and put them together. It’s very cool.”

sud.editorial@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @TheKeenanK

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