Skypersonic Remote Operations: Inspecting an Industrial Plant with Drone Piloted from Across the Atlantic Ocean Via Cellphone Connection
by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M Crosby
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Industrial drone company and Red Cat Holdings subsidiary Skypersonic conducted a visual inspection of the interior of a fully operational utility plant in Turin, Italy, via a drone controlled from 4,800 miles away in Orlando, Florida. The operation was conducted using only the internet connection from a standard cell phone.
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Drew Camden, the Orlando-based pilot and president of Red Cat subsidiary Rotor Riot, possessed no prior knowledge of the Iren district heating-network plant in Turin. Camden piloted the Skypersonic “Skycopter” drone using only the drone’s video feed, which enabled him to see and react to the building’s interior in near-real time, with a latency of only 68 milliseconds. The Skycopter can be piloted without GPS, which is unavailable indoors and in enclosed spaces.
“We learned much from this historic flight controlled from an ocean away, which is actually our third trans-Atlantic flight,” said Skypersonic CEO Giuseppe Santangelo. “Most importantly, we learned that an internet connection via a mobile phone in the vicinity of the drone is all that is needed to remotely pilot a drone from virtually anywhere – in fact, up to 8,000 miles away. The previous two flights had relied on a more sophisticated, non-mobile internet connection. We also learned that it is possible to navigate a very dense and complex interior environment from another continent using this easily configurable set-up.”
The demonstration was promoted by the Turin House of Emerging Technologies in partnership with the University of Turin. Iren is northwest Italy’s leading multi-utility company in the fields of electricity, gas, thermal energy, energy efficiency and of the management of integrated water, environmental and technological services.
“We had already proven, through a two-year inspection program with General Motors, that using drones flown by on-site pilots to inspect industrial facilities brings significant savings in time and money over the traditional method of erecting scaffolding and hoisting personnel in the air – as well as being immeasurably safer, of course,” said Santangelo. “These time- and money-saving benefits are exponentially greater when the drone pilot – always the most expensive component of using drones – never needs to leave his office to inspect any building virtually anywhere in the world. Travel expenses are eliminated completely and, because no travel is involved, the pilot’s time commitment drops from days to hours, which also means that a pilot can conduct several inspections on the same day with drones operating thousands of miles away while remaining in the same place.
“Pre-COVID, our normal procedure was to send a pilot to a customer to train them in using the Skycopter for interior inspections. But the lockdowns imposed by COVID made this impossible, so we had to come up with an alternative and I tasked our software engineers to develop a way to remotely pilot drones over the internet,” Santangelo continued. “When this was accomplished, our customers were able to begin practicing flying their new drone before it even arrived by remotely flying a similar drone located in our offices in Detroit or Turin. The customer needs just a radio controller connected to the internet and our remote piloting software. And then when the customer receives their drone, our pilot in Detroit or Turin can show them how to fly it by taking over control of the drone from thousands of miles away. The necessities imposed by COVID have created a new world of opportunities and fundamentally transformed our business model. In fact, ‘Remotely Flying Drones AnywhereTM’ has become the core business strategy for Red Cat Holdings’ enterprise segment, of which Skypersonic is a part.”
Read more about Red Cat Holdings and BVLOS Flight:
- Red Cat 4 Ship: One Pilot, Four Drones; Will a Multi Drone System Be the New Normal?
- Teal Drones Acquired by Red Cat Holdings
- Enabling Drones in Oil and Gas: What Will it Take to Make BVLOS a Reality? Industry Experts Speak
- Now is the Right Time for BVLOS Operations; Elsight on the Enabling Power of Mobile Networks
Ian attended Dominican University of California, where he received a BA in English in 2019. With a lifelong passion for writing and storytelling and a keen interest in technology, he is now contributing to DroneLife as a staff writer.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.
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