Game of Drones

23 Feb 2016

FEATURE: Business Now

Drones. Whether you’ve heard of them as a gift for the gadget enthusiast, the future for mail delivery or one of the military’s weapons of choice, you’ve definitely heard of them. Therefore it is hardly surprising that these Remotely Operated Aerial Vehicles (ROAV) are becoming a firm fixture within the energy industry, rapidly gaining recognition as a valuable tool for the visual inspection of live or difficult to reach structures.

This growth of ROAVs for commercial use is attributed to the significant cost, time and safety advantages offered by these mini eyes in the sky. Equipped with cameras, and other sensor equipment, they are being embraced by a range of sectors including onshore and offshore oil and gas and renewables, utilities and rail, to name but a few, thanks to the clear benefits they offer over conventional inspection methods.

But just when did this revolution start? Back in 2008, Malcolm Connolly, a rope access inspection engineer, spotted a gap in the oil and gas inspection market for the use of ROAVs. Inspired by Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), which are commonly used for inspection in the subsea industry, he had a vision of developing a safer, quicker and more cost efficient method of offshore inspection.

After securing a small grant from Business Gateway, Malcolm spent a few years educating himself on ROAV technology before taking the plunge, leaving his old job behind and launching Cyberhawk Innovations.

Setting up a business, particularly one focused upon a new technology, could be a risky move but with MarketsandMarkets reporting that the total commercial drone market was valued at $10.1 billion in 2015 and expected to reach $14.9 billion by 2020, it was the right decision to make. Fast forward seven years from the launch, and Cyberhawk has grown to become the world leader in the use of ROAVs for aerial inspection and survey.

Philip Buchan, commercial director at Cyberhawk explains: “Inspection activities can account for a significant portion of budgets within the energy market, as well as other industrial sectors. With his innovative thinking, Cyberhawk introduced a game-changing technology which has transformed the inspection philosophy of many operators and service companies.”

Cyberhawk’s clients have reported cost savings of up to seven figures through avoiding the requirement to shut down operations, also avoiding the cost of more traditional, expensive methods of inspection such as rope access and scaffolding.

In addition to the cost savings on offer, benefits also include the speed of inspection. Where a rope access team can take 14 weeks to inspect a complex area, an ROAV inspection has been shown to complete the same project in three days, while providing huge safety benefits.

Mr Buchan continued: “Working at height is a significant risk to the safety of personnel however the use of ROAVs considerably mitigates this risk. With a clear, 360 degree view of assets, ROAVs have revealed essential and new information that was previously inaccessible, fundamentally changing the accuracy of inspections.”

Operating globally with bases in Scotland, Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur, the team of highly trained, experienced ROAV pilots and fully qualified inspection engineers have worked in more than 20 countries on four continents and completed over 12,000 commercial flights, over 2000 structural inspections and achieved over 25 world firsts.

Mr Buchan added: “Cyberhawk has developed a versatile commercial service which not only improves industry safety, but also project efficiency. We continue to innovate and provide new solutions for existing and potential energy, rail and utility clients. For Cyberhawk – the sky is the limit.”

Link to Business Now - feature found on page 19