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Robotics Research
Posted on January 22, 2018

Robots boost safety, cut costs

SkySpecs announces an $8 million Series B financing led by Statkraft Ventures together with UL Ventures and Capital Midwest with follow-on investments from Venture Investors, Huron River Ventures and additional existing investors. Founders and Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees Danny Ellis and Tom Brady along with the SkySpecs team will use the investment to scale the company's international operations and develop world-class inspection software to enable customers to make more information-rich decisions about the condition of their energy assets and infrastructure. "Last year we proved that SkySpecs is the best-in-class at collecting data that can be used to assess the health of energy infrastructure. This year we will enable owners to harness the power of the data collected by our automated drones in a platform that they can use to decide what to repair and when to repair it," said CEO Ellis.
SkySpecs enables wind farm owners, ISPs, and OEMs to easily monitor and track the health of their wind turbines with a 15-minute automated robotic inspection. The single push of a button launches a drone, which surveys all sides of three blades, collecting high-resolution images that identify cracks, erosion, lightning strikes, and other anomalies. Data is sent to a web portal for viewing, annotating, and reporting. SkySpecs automates and streamlines the inspection process from the moment the inspection is scheduled to the time the repair crew is hired.
Fifteen-minute inspections that require only the push of a button - and no additional human oversight - make a previously laborious and time-consuming task simple, and keeps active maintenance and waiting time to a minimum. "We consider automation and standardization of O&M-related tasks the next big challenge in cost competition after hardware costs for renewable energy assets have dropped significantly over the last years. SkySpecs is the fastest growing inspection company in the wind sector, making rotor blade inspections more precise and safe while keeping operations at a lower cost compared to traditional methods. Their technological expertise combined with scalable operations is the key to grow the business worldwide," says Alexander Kueppers, Investment Manager at Statkraft Ventures.
"At UL, we see great opportunity to advance field inspections with the SkySpecs solution," said Simin Zhou, VP and Managing Director of UL Ventures. "Using the automation of drones with the analytical power of machine learning provides efficiencies to the process and less downtime, which benefits owners and operators." SkySpecs combines deep expertise in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine-based analytics to advance renewable infrastructure inspection. The company's guiding mission is to play a critical role in the smart grid evolution by helping to make renewable energy more accessible and attainable. SkySpecs' automated technology currently solves one of the top challenges that industrial asset owners and service providers face: making timely, informed business decisions that ultimately affect the bottom line. This investment represents an opportunity to capitalize on that momentum.
Alvin Vitangcol of Capital Midwest said, "SkySpecs is a great example of the type of investment that we are looking to make. It is a Midwest team that has developed technology to solve a problem in an industrial market—uniquely addressing the inspection challenges in wind energy—and has been proven through rapid adoption by significant customers."
Last year also proved pivotal for SkySpecs as they emerged the only fully-automated wind turbine blade inspection solution on the market, completing a record-breaking 3,600 turbine inspections at over 70 unique wind farms in the U.S. and Europe. To further differentiate themselves, they accomplished the technologically complex task of conducting offshore automated blade inspections without the need for human operation.
Jim Adox of Venture Investors, one of SkySpecs' original investors, forecasts continued success for the growing SkySpecs' team. "2017 was a great year for SkySpecs. We completed a strong first year of automated drone inspections for customers around the world, and capped off the year with the completion of an $8-million-dollar financing round, with the addition of four new investors. These investors bring relevant and diverse points-of-view on the renewable energy infrastructure inspection and data market to SkySpecs. We begin 2018 with a solid balance sheet, excellent investors, and a long list of customers."
Source and top image: SkySpecs
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