Can location be the key to innovation?

It takes tens of billions of dollars a year to monitor the world’s oil and gas pipelines, rail lines and commercial farms – large and often remotely located operations that are typically kept under watch with a combination of pilot-operated aircraft, on-the-ground surveyors, and satellite imaging.

These costly methods could soon be supplanted with innovative technology that provides data capture services for business assets and infrastructure that are spread out over vast stretches of land or water. Founded in 2015, SkyX Systems Corp., uses advanced-design drones to capture and analyze complex data with no human operators on the ground and without the need for the machines to return to home base for a battery recharge.

“Our technology was developed and built in Ontario, Canada.” says Jason Braverman, chief technology officer at SkyX, whose CEO and founder, Didi Horn, served for almost a decade as aviation captain and drone pilot with the Israeli Air Force. “Every single component – from the drones to the software – we designed and built ourselves.”

Long-range flying robots with a unique hybrid design

SkyX drones are, essentially, flying robots that operate autonomously based on a flight path and program determined by SkyX customers. The machines are hybrids that combine the forward-flight position of a fixed-wing aircraft with the vertical takeoff and landing capabilities of a quadcopter. This design enables energy-efficient, long-range flight as well as deployment from any site, without the need for a launcher or runway.

At the same time, electrical stations placed strategically along SkyX flight paths allow the drones to recharge remotely and autonomously instead of returning all the way to home base.

“We used the best technology available today to make our system truly autonomous,” says Braverman. “Our stations are interconnected and serve as houses where drones can recharge their batteries and upload their data all on their own.”

For SkyX customers, these all translate to comprehensive and accurate data – such as gas leaks or right-of-way violations – that help them operate more efficiently, at a dramatically reduced cost. For instance, instead of spending $20,000 an hour on a helicopter, a business could hire SkyX for about $20 a kilometre.

You need talent to innovate

Just three years after launch, SkyX has grown from a handful of people to a team of 22 highly skilled members.

SkyX’s location has proven to be fertile hunting ground for top technical talent – from software and aerospace engineers to robotics and business development experts.

“We’ve hired people from the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, University of Waterloo, Western University and Carleton University,” he says.

A great place to live and work

SkyX has also hired a number of workers from other countries, including Israel and the United States. Braverman, who is from New York, says the company’s Ontario location – right in the Greater Toronto Area – is a key factor in attracting and retaining skilled employees.

“I moved here seven-and-a-half years ago from New York and found Toronto to be a really nice city,” he says. “It’s just such a beautiful place to be in and if you’re a prospective employee considering relocation, you’ll see very quickly that Toronto and the surrounding communities would be a great place to live and work.

Easy access to collaborators and partnership opportunities

IBM Canada is a SkyX partner and collaborator. IBM has also connected SkyX with other companies that are leading the way in cloud computing, a critical component in the SkyX technology platform.

Ready for takeoff

After completing a number of pilot projects, SkyX is now moving from research and development and into production. Braverman says the company is fielding numerous requests from companies around the world – from China and Mexico to Central America and the Middle East.

“There are a lot of places where we can put our technology – not just in businesses that have long-range infrastructures such as oil and gas pipelines but also in operations such as fire stations and emergency first responders,” says Braverman. “There’s no lack of interest – we are inundated with companies coming to us for our technology.”

Many of the innovations changing the aerospace industry are underway right here in Ontario, Canada. Ontario is home a vibrant aerospace industries, supplying parts and components to OEMs and Tier One suppliers worldwide. Visit us in Hall 4, booth 4640, and at http://www.InvestInontario.com/Farnborough-2018