Surveys from drone tech expert SUPERFLY GUYS slash building and maintenance bills
The business, which is at the centre of a North East, satellite-based innovation cluster, specialises in accurate inspection of and tailored reports about the built environment.
The work is done by an officially authorised team with top aerial skills manoeuvring a fleet of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), armed with multispectral cameras capable of picking up details, through infrared thermal imaging, invisible to the human eye.
From straightforward visual checks to bigger risk health and safety ones such as reviews of polluted and hard-to-reach spots, image collection can be done more frequently while the information gathered can also be stored, used for new build 3D modelling and thermal efficiency calculations.
“We can explore the space between land and sky where people haven’t traditionally gone,” explains Superfly’s founder and owner Al Yong about the new frontier making such a difference on the ground.
Large surfaces such flat roofs – like the kind you find in retail parks – and solar panel arrays are the firm’s biggest successes.
The technology makes possible the identifications of the different impacts of standing water and leaks, deteriorating surfaces, contamination risks, malfunctioning panels and incorrect installation.
In solar’s case increased performance and productivity, rapid fault rectification and further damage prevention are the results that help persuade firms to adopt the green technology reassured that maintenance is affordable and easy, says IT expert Yong.
“Both services can literally strip out weeks of manpower.
“It would take two people a week to inspect 1,000 panels, whereas with our drone one the job could be wrapped up in 30 minutes. The difference is that significant.”
Turnover is expected to exceed £200,000 this year as growth for Superfly, now employing three, doubles year-on-year.
Time, location and technological progress were all on Yong’s side when he started up three years ago.
“I bought a drone because I saw their arrival and the technical possibilities as ground-breaking as the PC’s was,” he explains.
It was a moment too when a satellite tech and UAV cluster was forming locally encouraged by the North East’s uncrowded open spaces, industrial regeneration and the rich seam of technical expertise on hand.
Yong invested £20,000 of private funds mainly on high spec equipment, but singles out the business support he has received as playing a key role in the rise of Superfly.
“Incredible” guidance on a growth strategy, purchasing, marketing and pitching for investment, he says, has come in the shape of mentoring and backing worth £10,000 from the North East Space Incubator Programme, funded by the UK Space Agency and delivered by Business Durham, the county council’s economic development body.
According to its innovation director Catherine Johns, “Superfly Guys is a great example of an entrepreneurial business that has benefited from the network of support that Business Durham has built up in the North East around the space and satellite sector.
“The region’s successful drone cluster sits alongside other innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, 5G and the Internet of Things that are finding new ways to use satellite data and technology.”
“Our unique approach involves collaboration between businesses, universities and public sector organisations to help solve real world problems.”
“The mentoring I received was genuine and about my best interest, never self-serving,” agrees Yong. “The support crosses a chasm SMEs face when they start and grow.
“Many times it saved me wasting time going into things that would not have helped or were unnecessary.”
Constantly on a recruitment drive that usually takes the form of training friends and contacts in drone piloting, he continues to challenge “those stuck in their ways who still can’t see how drones can change the world”.
Now development of its software services for others in the UAV sector is Superfly’s main focus for the future, because as Yong says “with Brexit approaching both the opportunity and need to export digitally is there”.
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