Drones help firms do aerial checks

Drones help firms do aerial checks
Garuda Robotics' Mark Yong (left) and Pulkit Jaiswal showing their drones and how they can be controlled centrally through a computer without the need for individual remote controllers.

A six-month-old local start-up is taking to the skies with its business. Garuda Robotics is offering aerial monitoring and mapping services to construction companies, farms and even solar power providers.

Instead of using individual remote controllers for each drone, Garuda's drones are all controlled centrally through a computer. Its software lets users map the drone's flight paths instead of manually flying them.

The start-up's CEO, Mr Mark Yong, 33, said: "Advancements in technology and falling prices have made drones a viable option for companies to use for monitoring and mapping needs."

One of its first customers is Solar Horizon, a power provider that uses rooftop solar panels to generate electricity.

Its chief executive, Mr Samridh Goyal, wants the drone service to monitor the solar panels on the roofs of two buildings: a workers' dormitory in Tuas and a building in Changi. The panels need regular maintenance.

It is a challenge to monitor the condition of the panels to see if they need repairs. They now use in-panel sensors connected to a computer to alert the company to faults. But this detects faults only at a group or "string" level. Workers must then be sent up to check individual panels manually to see which are faulty. This is costly and inefficient.

Drones fitted with thermal cameras can capture heat maps of all the solar panels and pinpoint defective ones, which should show up as hotter than others.

Garuda is also in talks with:

-A pest control company to use the drones to spray pesticides automatically on trees in parks; and

-A multinational building company to have the drones take 3-D images of a construction site to monitor progress of the work.

Garuda's Mr Yong spent eight years teaching robotics at the computer engineering faculty at the National Technological University. He was involved in many robotics projects. His co-founder and chief technology officer is Mr Pulkit Jaiswal, 22, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and software engineer whom he met in Singapore.

Said Mr Yong: "I wanted to go beyond academic projects to create real-world applications and make a real-world impact with my experience with robotics and drones. This is cutting-edge technology right now and I feel that there are a lot of business opportunities for it."

ginlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 25, 2014.
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