There are a few common threads here at the 10th Annual 2016 UAS Summit & Expo in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
First, North Dakota remains a shining example of what can happen to a locale when there exists a common vision and when partnerships are formed that include all the stakeholders sharing that vision. It is amazing to see this at the UAS Summit where North Dakota’s state as well as federal legislators are in attendance and engaged, military and industry stakeholders are here and actively participating, academia’s influence is seen and felt throughout.
Developers, end-users, hardware and software companies, and service providers are here in Grand Forks, a place that represents so many firsts in the UAS world – first FAA-authorized UAS Test Center, first university to offer a baccalaureate degree in unmanned systems, the nation’s first unmanned aerial systems business and aviation park – Grand Sky, the nation’s first Joint Use Agreement (JUA) allowing tenants at Grand Sky to launch and recover both manned and unmanned aircraft from Grand Forks Air Force Base’s runway, and many other technological and innovative firsts. This state embraces all things UAS and it shows in the clear string of successes. And, yet, these folks are not resting at all – this place is alive and buzzing with talk of new changes and technologies and continued innovation.
Innovation and entrepreneurship are everywhere and another common thread at the 2016 UAS Summit & Expo is a new-start company called SkySkopes that embodies that innovative spirit.
This company, under the leadership of CEO and Founder Matt Dunlevy, has accomplished two things noteworthy for a company less than two years old: successful operations with satisfied customers and a national presence. SkySkopes was mentioned or highlighted in more than half of the presentations at the Summit. And, its presence is felt throughout the community when discussing UAS-aided aerial inspections in the energy sector. “SkySkopes has definitely emerged as the national leader in the United States in providing UAS-based aerial inspection services,” said Tero Heinonen, CEO of Sharper Shape, a global leader in UAS-based automated inspection hardware and software. “We have found the SkySkopes team to be professional as well as easy to work with and their reputation in the industry to be clearly superior.”
SkySkopes provided three aerial demos during the Expo using three different aircraft: the global debut of SharperShape’s A6 which employs the most advanced sensor suite available commercially, Advanced Aircraft Company’s Hercules Long Endurance; and SkySkopes’ own Freefly Alta 8. SkySkopes fleet of pilots is impressive with most having earned degrees in UAS Technologies and all holding private pilots licenses. The demos highlighted some impressive technologies, extensive use of LiDar as well as sonar in a GPS-denied environment, integration of sensors oriented for both nadir and oblique mapping, and new software environments that perform real-time sensor integration. When asked about the company’s success and meteoric growth, Mr. Dunlevy talked about the importance of having degreed pilots who understand both UAS as well as the importance of the business side of the house.
“Our business model and all our processes are built around the simple goal of understanding the customer’s requirements and then providing them with actionable, decision-quality data,” he said.
As the Summit starts to wind down, the energy level remains high in this place of UAS and all things innovative. At the SkySkopes offices there are pilots everywhere and discussions range from the highly technical to logistics and from the present to the future as the national footprint of this new-start UAS Service Company expands.