"Drones Are Becoming Energy’s New Roustabouts"

"PALO ALTO, Calif. — The egg white drone lifted off from its ground station at a hospital construction site here, hovered for an instant, then zoomed off, sounding like a five-pound bee as it buzzed around the cranes towering over the six-acre project.

Capable of carrying a high-resolution camera and other sensors, the quadcopter, a helicopter with four rotors that resembles a spaceship from a 1950s science fiction movie, was flying in a demonstration of its ability to serve a potentially lucrative new market for drones: the energy industry.

Skycatch, a year-old start-up based in San Francisco that has raised $3.2 million from Google and other investors, built the drone. The company has already signed deals to test its technology with the construction giants Bechtel and DPR; First Solar, a developer of photovoltaic power plants; and SolarCity, a solar panel installer. Drones from Skycatch and more established companies are monitoring power lines, inspecting oil and gas pipelines, checking wind turbines for defects and pinpointing malfunctioning solar panels."

Todd Woody reports for the New York Times April 21, 2014.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014