Silicon Valley start-up PRENAV and partner Hawk Aerial have been awarded Section 333 exemptions from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to commercially operate the PRENAV precision drone system for industrial inspections, including for wind turbines.
Navigating along predefined, repeatable flight paths, PRENAV's drones take photographs from precise locations in close proximity to structures to build accurate, 3D reconstructions of industrial assets. The system consists of a drone, a guidance robot on the ground, and software to plan the mission and analyze the data.
PRENAV says its drones are capable of autonomously navigating in complex, cluttered or GPS-denied environments. The two companies plan to use the system to perform close-proximity visual inspections of cell phone towers, wind turbines, bridges, oil tankers, industrial boilers and other large structures.
"Using drones to inspect structures such as cell towers and wind turbines typically requires an expert pilot because GPS isn't adequate for close-proximity flight," states Nathan Schuett, CEO of PRENAV. "The PRENAV system is the first drone to be approved by the FAA that will enable these types of missions to be performed autonomously, where the flight is aided by a robot on the ground."
Product launch of the PRENAV precision drone system is slated for 2016.