Perceptual Robotics expands into Asia through a strategic partnership with the K2 Energy Group

A UK-based wind-turbine inspections’ company has announced it is expanding into Asia thanks to a new partnership.

Utilising AI and drones, Perceptual Robotics provides autonomous wind turbine inspections across the UK and Europe. The company has now secured a brand-new deal with leading south-east Asian organisation, K2 Energy Group which has purchased its own Dhalion drone as a first of its kind for the region.

The new technology from Perceptual Robotics will enable K2 Energy Group, which is based in Singapore, to inspect its customers’ onshore wind turbines. The agreement will also see Perceptual Robotics supporting the group with blade repairs and wind turbine inspections, while also looking to expand into inspecting offshore wind turbines.

CEO of Perceptual Robotics, Kostas Karachalios, said: “We are delighted to announce our partnership with K2 Energy Group, which sees us expanding into Asia for the first time. K2 Energy Group has a vast amount of experience within the operation, maintenance and inspection of wind turbines across south-east Asia and our collaboration allows them to utilise our technology, whilst enabling us to build new relationships with customers in an entirely different region.

“We welcomed K2 Energy Group Chairman, Nicholas Conway, to our Bristol office to demonstrate Perceptual Robotics’ unique technology. Since then, we have been working closely with the team, providing our expert training and onboarding services so that they can fly the Dhalion drone and easily inspect onshore blades and turbines.”

Perceptual Robotics’ pioneering Dhalion system collects and analyses wind turbine inspection data with all information available to review in two hours or less. The state-of-the-art technology achieves superior results by uniquely identifying potential faults and damage prior to severe impairment of the turbine.

This high-quality data collection and analysis from Perceptual Robotics quickly provides blade engineers with all of the information they need to carry out preventive maintenance, dramatically reducing turbine downtime, increasing safety and cutting costs.

Nicholas Conway, Chairman of K2 Energy Group, said “By utilising Perceptual Robotics’ technology and software, K2 Energy Group will be able to conduct our own drone inspections whilst receiving all the benefits of Perceptual Robotics’ inspections, analysis and reports. We are excited to be working with Kostas and the team to bring their new technology to the region.”

The latest news comes after Perceptual Robotics revealed last month another successful funding round with Brookstreet Equity Partners LLP. This will support Perceptual Robotics in expanding to new geographies and develop their product offerings. 

Find out more information on Perceptual Robotics website.

Soaring Eagle Hopes to use BVLOS Work to Help Set Industry Standards
Soaring Eagle Technologies, which conducts numerous power line inspections, can now fly BVLOS under operational guidelines instead of being restricted to certain geographical images. Credit: Soaring Eagle Technologies

Soaring Eagle Technologies, a drone data collection company, hopes to use its latest beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flight waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to not only push its business forward but help set standards for the industry, according to company President Will Paden.

The Houston-based company has obtained one of the first BVLOS waivers that allow it to conduct inspection operations under operational guidelines versus in restrained geographical areas. This builds on waivers the company received earlier this year that expanded its BVLOS window to up to 27 miles, waivers that have now been superseded by the latest one.

Paden told Inside Unmanned Systems the overall process took five years and moved the company into a “crawl, walk, run” phase where it first proved its aircraft, command and control, processes and procedures, which eventually led to the “non-geo waiver.”

There are some limitations, mostly self-imposed based on command-and-control ability, but Paden said “roughly speaking, we’re patrolling six miles in a single flight … we can lidar 800 acres in a day.”

The waiver is for Soaring Eagle’s configuration of a Sentaero BVLOS drone from Daytona Beach, Florida-based Censys Technologies, operated with a Casia detect-and-avoid system from San Francisco-based Iris Automation.

Soaring Eagle Technologies specializes in electric utility line inspection, which it has been doing since 2018. “We have done tens of thousands of structures, poles, distribution, transmission, patrols, storm response, and we’ve flown all over the country: Maine, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, out to California … Kentucky, Tennessee, we’ve been all over the United States flying power lines,” Paden said.

The company also does surveying and mapping, particularly out of its Phoenix, Arizona office, and does research and development on aircraft systems, such as long-range command and control.

Paden stressed that “we are an aviation company,” and everything it does is based on an aviation standard, with a strong emphasis on training.

“We are in the walk phase,” of its crawl-walk-run operation, he said. “We’re working towards essentially replacing helicopters for doing patrols or 2,000 acres of lidar in a day type of operation. Those are some big goals but that’s kind of the thought process.”

The company wants to grow, but “honestly, the thing that we’re most excited about, really what we’re pushing the hardest is, we’re trying to set a standard that the industry can follow,” Paden said. “Because we understand Soaring Eagle is not going to get all the work … there’s no way we’re going to be able to patrol every power line in the nation by ourselves. But if we can help push an aviation standard, a level of training, so that this is done safely, it protects our industry in the long run.”

How PIX4Dinspect is helping Motorola Solutions move faster

Creating digital twins with aerial inspections, PIX4Dscan and PIX4Dinspect are streamlining operations for major telecom operators.

Telecom is an ever-changing industry and the continued rollout of 5G means that telco companies need to upgrade cell towers. Drones are speeding up inspection, maintenance, and installation processes. An aerial inspection with a drone provides imagery that is processed by specialized software PIX4Dinspect to create a digitized, accurate 3D model. The workflow can speed up telecom inspection operations by at least 60%.

The flexibility and power of this solution have been adopted by Motorola Solutions, a telecom operator and network provider. In a recent webinar with Pix4D, they shared how they are using PIX4Dscan and PIX4Dinspect to optimize their inspection operations.

PIX4Dinspect is a cloud-based inspection platform that uses machine learning and AI to produce intelligent digital twins of assets for inspection. The software and its algorithms have been tailored for highly accurate telecom inspections. PIX4Dinspect is paired with the drone flight planning app PIX4Dscan which optimizes image capture – capturing the fewest images possible for a comprehensive 3D model. The workflow has cut some inspection times from 24 hours to just 1 hour, as the data collection, processing, and analysis are sped up by the sheer time savings of using aerial images for inspections rather than asking tower engineers to climb and take manual records.

Motorola Solutions are using PIX4Dinspect in several ways, which include: Installation surveys – to inspect an asset and assess how to install new equipment, create a plan, and ensure the work has been completed successfully Quality inspection – to ensure all new equipment has been correctly installed and located, and provide a closeout package for their own records or to share with clients/collaborators. Emergency survey service – the MERT (Motorola Emergency Response Team) will identify equipment damaged by storms or lightning and report back in a rapid manner to plan repair work.

Antenna installations with intelligent drone inspections

Antenna installations on a tower or structure involve several steps. Firstly, the installation area must be inspected and analyzed to plan the location of the new equipment before an antenna nest can be put in place.

In one example, Motorola Solutions was looking to install 8 antennas on top of a tower and needed to measure each of the antennas to make sure they were angled at 90 degrees (with a margin for error of 2 – 3 degrees). This is the optimum antenna angle for the strongest coverage. After installation, an engineer used PIX4Dinspect to do an inspection. The cloud-based software created an intelligent digital twin that the engineer could then analyze.

Measuring antennas’ angles on PIX4Dinspect

Measuring antennas’ angles on PIX4Dinspect

First, they used the line tool to ensure all of the antennas were at optimal angles. Each new element was labeled and annotated to keep as a permanent record. Then any unused equipment on the tower, any lights, and GPS installations were also identified. Finally, the total findings were compiled in a report that Motorola Solutions will use as an internal record as well as share with a potential client looking to rent space on the tower.

Identifying equipment out of alignment with aerial imagery

Assets already installed on a telecom tower can move out of position for a variety of reasons. It could have been damaged or impacted due to extreme weather such as wind storms, or even by accident if someone is working on a separate part of the tower. Motorola Solutions use PIX4Dinspect and PIX4Dscan for automated inspections that can identify an item out of position.

Antennas out of position

Antennas out of position

In this example, a helix flight plan was used for PIX4Dscan to carry out the inspection. After completion, the imagery was uploaded to PIX4Dinspect. An engineer analyzed the quality of installations and found that two of the antennas were off by at least 3 degrees. This is outside of the acceptable margin of error and meant a tower engineer would need to climb and re-set the antenna. This would improve coverage in the area and save Motorola Solutions future issues caused by the misalignment.

Comprehensive telecom inspection reports

The automatically generated reports from PIX4Dinspect are ideal for summarizing the findings on an asset. One tower owner wanted Motorola Solutions to check on installed equipment and remove old materials. However, as the team had completed a survey the month before, they already had a digital twin available which saved all parties involved an unnecessary trip to the tower to reinspect it. As PIX4Dinspect is a scalable solution, Motorola Solutions are able to store their network of assets on an interactive map that they can re-visit or share with clients at any time.

Motorola Solutions simply identified the relevant tower and opened the file for the tower. One engineer looked at the digitized telecom tower and annotated the items that needed to be removed, using the information provided by the client.

PIX4Dscan and PIX4Dinspect revolutionize asset inspection

Annotating tower equipment on PIX4Dinspect

They then generated a report that was shared with the tower crew, who used it to confirm the three items that needed to be removed. This prevented any material from being mistakenly removed as it provided clear instructions.

Adapting to telco assets in unusual locations

Although PIX4Dinspect and PIX4Dscan have specific features for standardized cell towers, they are adaptable tools that can analyze equipment that is not on a tower. For example, Motorola Solutions have also used PIX4Dinspect to survey a water tank where they had to custom mount a µw dish. As it is a non-standard item, they had to carefully plan the installation. PIX4Dinspect provided an accurate 3D model that they could easily analyze and use to plan how a tower crew could create the mount and safely install the new dish.

water tank 3D model on PIX4Dinspect

The water tank 3D model on PIX4Dinspect

The flexibility of PIX4Dscan and PIX4Dinspect has helped Motorola Solutions streamline operations and identify maintenance needs, as well as prevent errors. The optimization of inspection workflows has saved them time and money, as well as improved safety thanks to reducing the need for inspection climbs. The continued roll-out of using drones for telecom inspections and asset analysis will only continue, especially when coupled with intelligent digital twins as in the case of PIX4Dinspect.

13,000 Miles of BVLOS Utility Line Inspections by Drone: Phoenix Air Unmanned

utility line inspections by dronePhoenix Air Unmanned logs 13,000 miles of BVLOS utility line inspections by drone

By Jim Magill

After about three years of operations, Cartersville, Georgia-based Phoenix Air Unmanned announced it has logged more than 13,000 miles of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights, inspecting utility transmission lines for Xcel Energy.

Continue reading below, or listen:

The company conducted its inspection flights under Xcel Energy’s certificate of waiver authorizing BVLOS flights without visual observers along the route of flight. The FAA-issued waiver allows for use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) surveillance spanning Xcel’s 18,000 miles of transmission infrastructure.

In an interview, Will Wheeler, Phoenix’s director of operations, said the flights took place across Xcel’s service territory, which encompasses a broad swath of the U.S. Midwest and Southwest, including the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and New Mexico.

utility line inspections by drone

“The flights for beyond visual line of sight actually began in 2019, when Xcel secured their first beyond visual line of sight waiver,” Wheeler said. Since then, the UAS company has flown transmission line inspections every year between the spring and fall months.

Wheeler said exceeding the 13,000-mile mark represents a significant accomplishment for Phoenix and for the commercial drone industry in general. “I don’t know of any other UAS service provider that’s inspected 13,000 miles. I would say that is quite a significant number,” he said.

“For us, it’s being on the leading edge of operational approvals, of being able to operate a drone commercially at scale to where we’re getting into the area of having a similar level of efficiency as a manned aircraft operator.”

Phoenix’s transmission line inspections are typically conducted involving two flight crews operating in a “leap-frog” manner. The first crew launches the drone from the initial take-off location, while the second crew waits at a location about 10 miles down the line. Midway through the flight the first crew hands off control to the second crew, and proceeds down the line to the next flight’s end point, while the second crew lands the drone and prepares it for the next leg of its inspection mission.

Two drones are listed on the waiver. With a battery life of about 30 minutes, the workhorse of the program, a Freefly Systems Alta X, has flown about 10,000 miles of the 13,000 miles of transmission line inspections.

The quad-rotor Freefly Systems Alta X platform equipped with onboard inspection cameras comes in under 55 pounds. Flights are planned utilizing structure locations provided by Xcel Energy as individual flight waypoints. The mission plans are then uploaded to the Alta X before takeoff.

In a statement, Wheeler praised the Alta X for its reliability. “When we started the approval process with the FAA, we were able to come to the table with comprehensive Freefly-provided engineering and test data to supplement the beyond visual line of sight waiver request,” he said. “After accruing 530 flight hours at nine minutes per flight in the real world, aircraft reliability has been proven beyond bench testing.”

For Phoenix’s mission planning purposes, the average flight time is around nine minutes. On average, crews inspect about 40 miles of transmission line per day, with the highest single-day inspection total by a single aircraft being 124 miles.

Wheeler said Phoenix has participated in the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee’s BVLOS panel and has shared the lessons learned in its years of unmanned transmission line inspection with that body. The company’s work with Excel Energy “has been one of the use cases for developing the next set of beyond visual line side rules for the FAA,” he said.

Other utility companies now are looking at Phoenix’s inspection program with Xcel “to figure out how to scale their own operations and ultimately, create a more reliable, transmission-line grid.”

Stepwise approach to BVLOS approval

Xcel Energy had pursued a stepwise approach toward proving the technology and operational concepts needed to get to the point of being able to conduct repeatable and scalable UAS inspection flights. In 2018 the utility company was granted a site-specific waiver, limited to a 30-mile set of transmission line requiring the use of visual observers.

At the time, Excel worked with industry partners from Phoenix Air Unmanned as well as L3Harris, Northern Plains UAS Test Site and Capital Sciences to build a scalable BVLOS inspection program. The partners held multiple test events along the 30-mile stretch, ultimately validating the concept of operations, and leading to the creation of the datasets that were presented to the FAA to secure the system-wide 18,000-mile approval.

The FAA gave Xcel’s BVLOS flight program a two-year approval in 2019. Following two years of successful operations and an FAA safety assurance assessment, the utility applied for and was granted a duplicate two-year waiver in the fall of 2021.

Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Skydio - Electric Infrastructure Inspection with Drones - sUAS News - The Business of Drones
Skydio – Electric Infrastructure Inspection with Drones – sUAS News – The Business of Drones

Utility inspections are absolutely critical for ensuring uptime and safety of our power grid, but these inspections often pose serious safety risks to the inspector. Inspectors must often fly low over power plants, transmission towers, and distribution poles by helicopter, or climb to high altitudes in high-voltage environments. In some cases, safety requires so much of the inspector’s attention that the data quality of the inspection suffers.

The solution? Drones. Deploying drones for inspection use cases can help the inspector generate fully comprehensive inspection datasets, while their operators remain safely on the ground.

However, not all drones are created equal. Last-generation manual drones are challenging to fly and cannot be flown up close to utility structures without introducing high crash risk, so manufacturers have raced to add larger, and more expensive, camera payloads to photograph infrastructure from a distance. Skydio autonomous drones can accomplish better inspections with smaller cameras simply by being able to fly closer to the subject, reducing the requirement to carry and risk expensive camera payloads. Skydio drones require far less training because of unmatched obstacle avoidance and fully autonomous missions which provide robotic precision data capture of complex structures.

Electric utility environments are usually accompanied by high voltage electric fields and strong electromagnetic fields induced by current flowing. A drone and its onboard sensors must be able to withstand those fields, which is why Skydio partnered with EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) — the world’s preeminent independent, non-profit energy research and development organization, with offices around the world — to test Skydio’s drones in these energized environments. After rigorous field testing, EPRI confirmed that our drones worked as expected with no electric or magnetic field impact to the aircraft’s flight behavior, collision avoidance systems or command and control systems.

The Distribution and Transmission Electrical Network

When looking at the landscape of electric utility inspections, many of the most critical inspections focus on distribution and transmission networks. Transmission networks move large amounts of electricity and use larger structures to support the electric lines. Distribution networks are smaller in structure and are used to get electricity from the main transmission hubs to individual homes or businesses. The main difference between transmission and distribution is the amount of energy these different networks move. An analogy to think about this is transmission networks are the arteries and the distribution networks are the veins of the electrical network.

The Need for Reliable Electricity

The assets used to supply electricity to people are often placed in some of the harshest environments in the world. The maintenance task is immense and very challenging. Weather conditions, vegetation and wildlife can degrade the integrity of that support structure or create hazardous conditions that may lead to fires and blackouts. Blackouts can cause millions of dollars in economic loss as well as endanger the health and safety of communities.

power utility degradation

Recurring visual inspections are necessary to assess the health of distribution system components. Drones are a great tool to inspect these distribution structures because these inspections are expensive and hazardous for manned inspection. Automation with drones provide safe, fast, low-cost, and high quality inspections which is key to having reliable electricity.

Flying in Energized and Electromagnetic Environments

Energized electric utility and transmission environments are usually accompanied by high voltage electric fields and strong electromagnetic fields induced by current flowing that can interfere with electronics and GPS signals. A drone and its onboard sensors must be able to withstand those fields and operate in GPS-denied conditions EPRI tested Skydio drones in these energized environments and found that, in fact, Skydio drones can handle and are well suited to operate in electrified environments, even in close proximity.

x2 drone flying near utility equipment

Below you will see a Skydio X2 drone flying in a high voltage electric field with a 230,000 Volt source right below it. The X2 oeprates as it usually would with no differance in operation due to the chnages in the environmental condition.

Flying in Obstacle Rich Environments

Having a drone that is able to fly in an energized environment is necessary, but only half of the equation. To be successful in the utility environment, drones must be able to avoid wires, poles, vegiation, and many other obstacles. As a result, reliable omnidirectional collision avoidance is critical.

drone obstacle avoidance

Skydio’s approach to flight navigation and obstacle avoidance is fundamentally different from the rest of the industry’s. Our aircrafts come with AI and computer vision software that process video images from six integrated fisheye, 4K navigation cameras reconstructing a 360 view of the environment around the drone in real time and without prior knowledge of a location. The onboard AI works as co-pilot assisting the human operator in safely maneuvering around obstacles even outside the field of view of the main camera payload.  Our context-aware AI algorithms can draw conclusions about what they see — for example, concluding that a cable the cameras show floating in mid-air is likely to extend in both directions. That lets them dodge obstacles that their human pilots miss, and is critical to operating in these types of environments.

Autonomous Data Capture in Obstacle Rich and Energized Environments

Skydio 3D Scan builds on top of the Skydio Autonomy flight engine, adding the ability  to conduct fully autonomous flight patterns to capture complete and accurate photosets of every surface and angle of energy utility structures. This means that professional drone operators of all skill levels can now perform higher quality area mappings and physical asset inspections in record time and with minimal training.

skydio 3d scan power pole

With 3D Scan the operator defined a simple operating volume (floor, ceiling, and pillars) around the electric pole. Once the 3D Scan software was programmed with the volume, the operator defined the ground sample distance and the drone began to autonomously take all the required images of the pole without any additional input from the human operator. The drone flew for a minute and a half and took 48 photos. With those photos, the inspector can review/ and identify any potential issues that need to be addressed.

Watch the complete “Autonomous Drones for Energy Utilities An EPRI Research Study”


DRONAMICS earn CarbonNeutral® certification on its path to net-zero
Autonomous Drones use AI for infrastructure inspection with technologies from Auterion and Spleenlab

Drones run AI on the edge and use machine learning to autonomously conduct infrastructure inspections and collision avoidance

MOORPARK, Calif. and ZURICH — April 20, 2022 — Auterion, the company building an open and software-defined future for enterprise drone fleets, is excited today to welcome Spleenlab to the growing Auterion ecosystem. Spleenlab’s VISIONAIRY® technology delivers AI-based safe perception software for drones to complete fully autonomous infrastructure detection, inspection, and collision avoidance. 

“Together with Spleenlab, we’re demonstrating that the future of robotics is now with our combined AI, machine learning and onboard edge technologies,” says Markus Achtelik, vice president of Engineering at Auterion. “This new partnership brings together the best technologies—Auterion’s Skynode and AI Node with Spleenlab’s VISIONAIRY Perception Software—to deliver the best possible autonomous solutions for enterprise drone users.”

Spleenlab’s VISIONAIRY AI, built to be safe from ground, together with Auterion’s AI Node, which is equipped with the world’s smallest AI supercomputer for embedded and edge systems, transforms Skynode itself into a supercomputer. The combination runs AI right at the edge onboard any drone. Software running on the Auterion ecosystem enables autonomous inspection of critical infrastructure—empowering enterprise users to scale beyond single-pilot, single-drone operations. 

“We’re excited to collaborate with Auterion to take this next step into an autonomous future,” says Stefan Milz, Founder at Spleenlab. “Advanced ML algorithms are computation-heavy and require appropriate horsepower to be deployed onboard mobile robots. With Auterion’s Skynode and AI Node, the VISIONAIRY AI software can easily be deployed and run onboard drones on a high safety level.” 

When Spleenlab’s VISIONAIRY® software and ML algorithm are installed on Auterion’s AI Node, the combined technologies enable drones to: 

  • Automate inspections;
  • Avoid collisions;
  • Detect and track objects for automated flight maneuvers;
  • Detect obstacles in the air or on the ground;
  • Estimate air and ground risk.

Enterprise drones are able to understand their environment and predict safe landing spots in real time for package delivery, emergencies, and other situations. Risk estimation also includes detecting cooperative and non-cooperative air traffic, with up to 360 degree field of view and several kilometers range. The unique, combined capabilities move industries toward fully realized beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) autonomous flight.

Learn more about the VISIONAIRY® integration with AI Node here.

About Spleenlab GmbH

Spleenlab GmbH is a highly specialized AI software company founded with the Idea to redefine Safety and AI. Since April 2018, the company has been primarily engaged in the development and distribution of safe Machine Learning algorithms for semi- and fully autonomous mobility, especially the flight of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), helicopters, Air Taxis, driving vehicles and beyond. The groundbreaking fusion of different sensors, such as cameras, lasers and radars by means of Machine Learning is the core business of the company. The generated SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) enables completely new applications and products for any kind of autonomous mobility. The company is based in Jena (Saalburg), Germany. 

Learn more at 

About Auterion

Auterion is building the world’s leading autonomous mobility platform for enterprise and government users to better capture data, carry out high-risk work remotely, and deliver goods with drones. Auterion’s open source based platform was nominated by the U.S. government as the standard for its future drone program. With 70+ employees across offices in California, Switzerland, and Germany, Auterion’s global customer base includes GE Aviation, Quantum-Systems, Freefly Systems, Avy, Watts Innovations, and the U.S. government.

Learn more at 

FAA Approves BVLOS Flights for U.S. Refinery, Marking a First
FAA Approves BVLOS Flights for U.S. Refinery, Marking a First

Delek U.S. Holdings recently received FAA approval to fly Percepto drones BVLOS for inspections on its Tyler, Texas, and El Dorado, Arkansas, sites—a first for U.S. based refineries.

Delek, a downstream energy company, began deploying Percepto UAS about three years ago to monitor various assets, a job that’s typically done manually, said Ariel Avitan, Percepto’s chief commercial officer. They saw the value of the drone flights right away, with collected data quicky being converted into actionable reports. But the deployments still required people on the ground to watch and operate the drone, limiting the technology’s full potential.

“Percepto’s end-to-end system supports our environmental, social and governance goals to deliver safe and reliable autonomous drones that can be operated remotely while in compliance with U.S. FAA regulations,” Delek SVP, Business Transformation, Grigor Bambekov said, according to a news release about the approval. “By working in partnership with Percepto, Delek US is gaining more effective, efficient, reliable and profitable utilization of its assets through the next generation of Industry 4.0 drone ecosystems.”

With the approval, an operator can manage and monitor the autonomous drone from a control room. The drone-in-a-box solution can now “provide value on the full site” once it takes off, Avitan said, which leads to more assets being monitored and more data being converted into actionable insights.

“It reduces the amount of restraint the system has,” Avitan said. “Before, they had to have two certified 107 pilots in a shift. That’s a lot of resources. Now they can fly and collect more data without the hurdle of additional people on the ground.”

Percepto has a global regulatory team that focuses on gaining such approvals, Avitan said, and has worked closely with the FAA on various programs. The team spent months putting together the CONOPS for the Delek sites. Other Percepto clients receiving similar approvals include Florida Power & Light, Verizon Skyward, and industrial sites in Australia, Italy, Spain, Norway, Portugal and Israel.

The Applications

The Percepto drones spend time monitoring and mapping assets, looking for analomies, Avitan said. One of the biggest? Leaks.

The UAS fly over tanks and terminals daily, taking the same pictures over and over, he said, with algorithms identifying discrepancies in assets that could indicate the beginnings of a leak. They also look at vegetation. If vegetation around an asset is starting to die, for example, an underground leak could be to blame. The information collected is converted to a report and sent to someone who can fix the leak before it causes a lot of damage.

The drones can identify temperature irregularities that could indicate a problem, Avitan said, and can be flown for security. Percepto also offers an OGI sensor that can detect gas leaks, which is a “very big change for these sites and the regulatory parties that look at these sites on an ongoing basis.”

The Percepto drones mapping refinery assets are managed by the company’s Autonomous Inspection & Monitoring (AIM) platform. The AI-powered solution collates visual data from all third-party surveillance devices on site, providing a unified view of the facility. All data collected can be sorted based on points of interest, Avitan said, making it possible to quickly identify incongruities and distribute reports to the appropriate stakeholders. The recently upgraded AIM 2022 includes the newest configuration of the Percepto Sparrow, the Percepto Air Max, which is equipped with 24MP RGB and radiometric thermal cameras.

With the BVLOS approval, the FAA will now have a reference, Avitan said, and see through the flight logs that these monitoring and mapping missions are being performed safely. This should give both the drone industry and the oil and gas industry more confidence in deploying drones BVLOS moving forward.

From Avitan’s point of view, this approval is an important first steppingstone toward a more autonomous future for refineries and other similar sites, with the next step involving broader adoption of these types of approvals.

“The client now sees these systems are growing their potential and providing more value,” Avitan said. “The FAA has approved these waivers because they have confidence in the system and the value it can bring.”

Autonomous Drone Inspections at US Refinery: Delek US Gets BVLOS Approval with Percepto AIM
Autonomous Drone Inspections at US Refinery: Delek US Gets BVLOS Approval with Percepto AIM

Percepto BVLOS flightDelek US Gains First BVLOS Approval for Autonomous Drone Inspections at US Refinery Using Percepto AIM

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

Autonomous inspection leader Percepto has announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations for Delek US Holdings’ refineries in Tyler, Texas and El Dorado, Arkansas. The facilities were inspected by Percepto drones, which provided visual data management and analysis. This BVLOS approval positions Delek US’s refineries as the first to receive such an approval, as well as one of the first among US energy companies. This is only the latest of many operational approvals to be received by Percepto customers,such as Florida Power & Light, Verizon Skyward, and other industrial sites in Australia, Italy, Spain, Norway, Portugal and Israel.

The BVLOS approval, which permits Delek US to operate its drones without a pilot to maintain line of sight with the drone, allows an operator located in the control room to easily manage and monitor pre-scheduled fully autonomous drone missions.

“This approval to use autonomous drone technology is a huge step forward towards cleaner and safer refineries within the oil and gas industry,” said Dor Abuhasira, CEO of Percepto. “Congratulations to Delek US for being pioneers in digital transformation, and implementing new procedures within an industry that has been seeking new solutions to old problems.”

“Percepto’s end-to-end system supports our environmental, social and governance goals to deliver safe and reliable autonomous drones that can be operated remotely while in compliance with US FAA regulations,” said Delek SVP, Business Transformation, Grigor Bambekov. “By working in partnership with Percepto, Delek US is gaining more effective, efficient, reliable, and profitable utilization of its assets through the next generation of Industry 4.0 drone ecosystems.”

The Percepto’s Autonomous Inspection & Monitoring (AIM) platform, which manages Percepto drones, recently received an upgrade with AIM 2022, which features the most recent configuration of the Percepto Sparrow and the Percepto Air Max. In addition to other payload and capability upgrades, the Air Max comes equipped with an OGI camera capable of detecting gas emissions.

AIM 2022 also provides AI-powered packaged solutions for sector-specific use cases, including oil, gas, and other industries. As the first industry solution to accumulate visual data from all third-party surveillance devices on site, Percepto’s platform offers a unified view of the entire facility, granting insights for quick and efficient action. Via its change detection framework based on drone-collected data, the Tyler and El Dorado refineries utilize AIM and Air Max drones to continue remote operations 24/7, with capability to automate a select set of day-to-day operations, maintenance, security, and special projects tasks, provide aerial surveillance, monitoring, and inspection of assets, equipment, machinery, materials, and supplies, enable emergency response and crisis management services, guarantee compliance with environmental and safety regulations, and keep workers safe with pre-emptive risk notifications and mitigation services.

Read more about Percepto BVLOS approvals, drone-in-a-box solution, and the AI- powered analytics.

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.

r/drones - What do you all think of this? I feel like at 35 M altitude, they’d be able to hear the drone at that distance.
DroneBase scales solar energy inspections with North American Solar Scan flights – sUAS News – The Business of Drones

DroneBase, the leader in intelligent aerial imaging, is simplifying aerial inspections of solar energy assets through its expanded manned flight’s program — North American Solar Scan (NASS), scheduled for spring and fall 2022. 

“Our North American Solar Scan makes it simple to get an annual health check on solar energy systems. One-click and your utility-scale solar energy system or entire distributed portfolio can be scanned as part of our spring NASS flight route,” said Mark Culpepper, GM Global Solar Solutions. Culpepper oversees both the NASS and drone solar plant inspections programs at DroneBase.  

DroneBase conducts NASS scans via manned aircraft twice a year — spring and fall — to coincide with solar energy’s peak performance. Solar power plant owners, operators, and financiers can click here to determine their solar project’s eligibility for thermal imaging inspections via the NASS flyovers. 

The NASS flight routes cover every major solar market in both Canada, including Ontario, and the United States, including California, Nevada, Colorado, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Massachusetts, and more. 

DroneBase NASS clients receive the same actionable thermal inspection reports as provided through a drone inspection. As part of some clients’ routine solar monitoring programs, DroneBase delivers thermal inspections by both NASS flights and by drones. Thermal inspections by drones are particularly effective for systems in urban or emerging markets and for spot inspections; inspections by manned flights are used most often for utility-scale systems or large distributed portfolios. 

“DroneBase has been instrumental in helping us scale solar assets and inspections across North America. Their ability to provide 100 percent aerial coverage by using drones and manned aircraft gives them a tremendous competitive advantage. We look forward to growing our partnership with DroneBase as our portfolio grows,” said Jamie Mordarski, Director of Operations & Maintenance, Americas at SMA. 

“Both the number and size of solar energy systems are growing exponentially. It’s not enough to deploy a system and hope it will generate as much clean energy as possible. These systems must be inspected annually. But doing that once or twice a year can be a significant operational burden for owners and operators. We continually invest in automation, AI, and machine learning so that our clients can focus on what matters most — growing their portfolio and delivering as much clean energy as possible,” said Dan Burton, CEO of DroneBase. 

DroneBase also provides intelligent aerial imaging services to insurers and owners/operators of high-value infrastructure, such as commercial real estate complexes and wind energy farms in North America, EMEA, and APAC. 

To learn more about DroneBase and intelligent aerial imaging solutions, visit

About DroneBase

DroneBase is the leading intelligent aerial imaging company for high-value infrastructure, providing businesses with actionable, real-time insights to recover revenue, reduce risk, and improve build quality. Headquartered in Santa Monica, California, DroneBase serves customers in the solar, wind, insurance, construction, real estate, and critical infrastructure industries. Trusted by the largest enterprises in the world, DroneBase is active in over 70 countries.

EASA publishes proposal for the implementation of U-space in Europe - sUAS News - The Business of Drones
DroneBase acquires AirProbe, a leader in artificial intelligence for solar energy system inspections – sUAS News – The Business of Drones

With the acquisition, DroneBase adds AirProbe’s market-leading AI solution for aerial solar inspections and proprietary data analytics; expands immediately in India, Asia and Europe

DroneBase, the leader in intelligent aerial imaging, today announced that it has acquired India-based AirProbe, a leader in drone inspections of solar energy systems and AI-enabled analytics of solar inspection data. The acquisition immediately expands DroneBase’s footprint throughout Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe, making it seamless for the company to support the needs of renewable energy companies globally. 

The acquisition brings another advantage to DroneBase and its customers: AirProbe’s proprietary Artificial Intelligence significantly reduces the amount of time needed to analyze aerial inspection data of solar energy systems by up to 50%. This enables solar owners, operators and financiers to more quickly take action to fix high-value anomalies and defects to increase energy generation and improve system ROI. 

“As both the number and size of solar energy systems deployed grow exponentially, inspecting and maintaining millions of systems will become more critical and more complex,” said Dan Burton, CEO of DroneBase. “DroneBase solved how to scale solar energy inspections and data capture and AirProbe solved how to scale solar data analysis with AI: together our solution is truly unbeatable.”  

Burton noted on DroneBase’s continued global expansion, “India and the APAC region are growing markets for the renewable energy industry. With AirProbe, we have added the most-forward thinking aerial analytics developer and disciplined operator throughout APAC and EMEA.”

The solar energy market is on a fast track to rapid growth, driven by the demands of corporate net-zero targets and renewable energy commitments made at COP26 by global government leaders. India recently committed to producing more energy through solar and other renewables by 2030 than the nation’s entire grid produces today. Globally, the IEA estimates that  annual additions of solar PV and wind will approach 500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030. 

“Our mission at AirProbe has been to increase the adoption, reliability and efficiency of solar energy systems by developing the best AI-enabled software solution. That aligns perfectly with DroneBase’s mission to continually deliver the best, actionable intelligence so that solar energy system operators and financiers can deliver more clean energy and grow their bottom line at the same time,” said Aditya Bhat, founder of AirProbe. 

Bhat will be based in Bangalore, India and oversee operations in the APAC market.   

Terms of the acquisition deal were not disclosed. With the acquisition, DroneBase adds another 22 GW of solar energy systems under inspection, bringing the DroneBase total to more than 59 GW of both wind and solar energy assets under inspection. By the end of 2022, DroneBase expects to reach a processing capacity of 140 GW solar and wind energy annually. 

In October 2021, DroneBase announced a $20 million raise, led by Euclidean Capital.

DroneBase also provides intelligent aerial imaging services to insurers and owners/operators of high-value infrastructure, such as commercial real estate complexes and wind energy farms in North America, EMEA and APAC. 

To learn more about DroneBase and intelligent aerial imaging solutions, visit

About DroneBase

DroneBase is the leading intelligent aerial imaging company for high-value infrastructure, providing businesses with actionable, real-time insights to recover revenue, reduce risk and improve build quality. Headquartered in Santa Monica, CA, DroneBase serves customers in the solar, wind, insurance, construction, real estate, and critical infrastructure industries. Trusted by the largest enterprises in the world, DroneBase is active in over 70 countries.