Pittsburgh UAV Co to focus on oil, gas infrastructure

By Luke Geiver | April 16, 2015

Identified Technologies, an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology developer based in Pittsburgh, is using the industrial attributes of a major U.S. unconventional gas play to solidify its place in the small unmanned aircraft vehicle (sUAV) industry. Formed in 2013, the company has developed a unique sUAV system that includes a multi-rotor, docking and battery charging station and an information analysis process for commercial construction, mining and oil and gas asset monitoring. Dick Zhang, former mechanical engineer and founder of the sUAV firm, said that roughly 40 percent of U.S. natural gas supply is produced in the surrounding region. “It is a really nice industrial playground for this,” he said of the company’s system offerings.

To test and prove out its sUAV package, the company has worked on large construction projects throughout the region.  The potential applications for job sites, at home, and abroad are almost endless, according to Zhang.

The system is placed on a worksite and can be operated autonomously from a remote location. Clients using the system can access a web portal, choose waypoints on an aerial map for the sUAV to follow and collect data on. During or after flight, the sUAV will dock on the battery swapping station if necessary to continue or end a flight. Once the waypoint imagery has been completed, the information is loaded on a cloud and then made available. According to Zhang, clients can send the sUAV on flights daily, weekly or monthly. “The uniqueness of what we offer is that it is so turn-key and out-of-the-box,” he said. Most customers don’t understand the level of involvement an autonomously flown sUAV comes with, he added. “There is so much work that has to be done pre-flight in terms of planning, charging and getting everything together. With our system, that is eliminated.”

Although the company has yet to receive a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration section 333 exemption allowing them to operate commercially in the U.S., Zhang says its application is pending and due to the recent changes to the FAA exemption process, they should be commercially operating in the U.S. soon. And, the company barely flies higher than 100 feet, he said, making its commercial aspirations very feasible in the short-term.

As the company prepares for major U.S. operations, Zhang said the company continues to maintain its focus on oil and gas infrastructure monitoring at a time when many people interested in the UAS industry believe the options for UAV use are limitless. “This isn’t exclusive to us, but one of the main issues in the industry is focus. It is a heavily emphasized point within our internal management,” he said. “There are a million ways you can go with our platform.

“We have to start somewhere , we have to be able to prove we are the best at something and then we can scale and try and do other things from there,” he added.Although the company is focused on its own sUAV mission now, the education of the general public  is also something the team is constantly working to amend. “At first, everyone thought drones were for military uses and then everyone thought drones were just for taking pictures. Now, we are starting to approach this new acceptance of more uses.”

The Pittsburg-based team is currently working to add team members and is in the middle of a new office complex build-out. Zhang expects a 10-times growth rate this year and a scalable and consistent sales model.