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News & Notes

New GE Company Will Use Drones and Robots for Inspections

The new venture embraces contemporary technologies

June 13, 2017

Today, GE launched Avitas Systems, a company that will use drones and robots to offer inspection services to the oil and gas, transportation, and energy sectors.

Inspections of industrial assets, including flare stacks and transmission towers, can be slow, costly, and risky. Avitas Systems aims to change that.

“We will use state-of-the-art robotics, automated defect recognition, and cloud-based technology to give customers the customized service and data they need to advance from reactive to predictive repair,” said Alex Tepper, founder and head of corporate and business development at Avitas Systems, in a news release.

According to the news release, Avitas Systems is partnering with GE Global Research and market leaders in drone and robotics tech to make autonomous and semi-autonomous robots — on the ground and in the air. Once data is gathered, the Avitas Systems platform will allow for real-time data analysis, recommend optimal inspection and maintenance schedules, automatically detect defects during inspections, and make live alerts.
The Avitas Systems platform is built on GE’s Predix platform for the Industrial Internet. Here's a look at all the moving parts. GE/Avitas Systems
In order to maintain the safety of inspection workers, some operational assets need to be powered down during human inspections. Shutting down flare stacks and other industrial assets can cost operators millions of dollars and is a top issue for the oil and gas industry, said Kishore Sundararajan, CTO of GE Oil & Gas, in the news release.

“Drones help make legacy inspection processes better, faster, and safer,” Dyan Gibbens, CEO of Trumbull Unmanned and adviser to the oil and gas industry, told Drone360 in November 2016.

The FAA released its annual aerospace forecast in March, which found that construction, industrial, and utility inspection was the second-most promising use for small commercial drones. Aerial photography came in first.

According to that report, the number of commercial drones will be 10 times larger by 2021, growing from 42,000 in 2016 to 420,000 by 2021. It’s safe to say a large chunk of those will be used for inspections. And big corporations like GE are leading the way for widespread integration of commercial drones.
Featured image: GE/Avitas Systems