Vancity Buzz is excited to partner with GROW Conference 2014, bringing you a series of in-depth articles featuring the brands, brains and breakthroughs that will be at its 5th year. Heading to the hyper-connected hills of Whistler, BC, August 20-22, GROW dives headfirst into the Internet of Things, from robotics, drones, smart devices, and the connected everything.
We’ve all seen them – those 4 blade quadcopters that look more like a toy than the hottest tech to hit the sky since the Concorde. From delivering Amazon packages, to shooting top-notch real estate footage, drones are popping up everywhere – taking humans out of the equation while they’re at it. A tech that was once known for covert warfare is now being used to save lives and secure job sites – and one company on the forefront of this movement is San Francisco-based Skycatch.
Capable of carrying a high-resolution camera and other sensors, Skycatch drones (intelligent unmanned helicopters that resemble something straight out of Batteries Not Included) are about to revolutionize job sites around the world, thanks to visionary Founder and CEO, Christian Sanz.
When Christian began building his drones a few years back, he realized that his technology could fulfil a need that wasn’t currently being addressed: data collection. This epiphany stemmed from a request Sanz received from someone on a job site, when they asked him to take some aerial photos of their build.
A successful business is a business that identifies a need, and then makes the necessary strides to solve it. What started off as a photography gig has evolved into a business model that is satisfying a growing (think Amazon, Facebook, Google…) niche. Sanz realized that he could provide, via a fleet of drones, an up-to-date wealth of data about a job site as it progresses – affording site managers (and all other invested parties) the ability to avoid potentially costly mistakes, and on the job injuries.
Skycatch’s fully autonomous drones have attracted some big name investors, (Google being one of them) and the company has already signed deals to test its technology with construction giants, Bechtel and DPR; First Solar, a developer of photovoltaic power plants; and SolarCity, a solar panel installer. More established companies are currently using their drones to monitor power lines, inspect oil and gas pipelines, check wind turbines for defects and pinpoint malfunctioning solar panels.
Where we mere humans have to sleep, drones can work 24/7. Where a downed power grid may hinder our ability to get somewhere safely, drones can soar above and find a secure route. Since Skycatch drones are designed to operate autonomously, they’re able to replace workers in potentially dangerous situations; big news for high-risk industries/jobs like oil and gas and fire fighting.
When a Skycatch drone completes a mission, it flies back to a ground station, a 100-pound, 2-by-2-foot box with a circular opening on top. As the drone nears, guided by its camera, G.P.S. and a sonar sensor, the ground station uses its own sensors and a radio signal to guide the approach. Once the drone has landed, a robotic arm removes the battery, which also stores 15 gigabytes of data, and replaces it with a fresh one from a 10-battery carousel. The data is then beamed up to Box, a cloud computing service. This may all sound complicated, but it was this massive demand for data that led Christian to start his business.
Having recently raised, $13.2 million in venture funding to support their mission, there is no doubt that we will be hearing a lot more from Christian Sanz and his growing fleet of robotic whirlybirds.
Don’t miss Christian Sanz when he brings his popular drone competition, Game of Drones to Whistler this summer at the 2014 GROW Conference. Attendees will get to test out the futuristic flying machines and compete against one another in the scenic skies of Whistler, BC.