SUEZ partners with Sky Scape Industries to utilize small UAS in North America

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SUEZ in North America, which is under Paris-based parent company SUEZ, has partnered with UAS service provider Sky Scape Industries (SSI) in what the companies call an industry first, as they look to implement UAS technology into water utility operations.

SUEZ North America owns and operates 15 water utilities, and operates 70 municipal systems through public-private partnerships and contract partnerships. With this in mind, the companies say that this partnership will “incorporate safe and efficient drone technology solutions into the maintenance and construction of one of the country’s most valuable utilities.”

“The relationship between Sky Scape and SUEZ will ultimately result in safer, greener, and more efficient operations for SUEZ and we look forward to diving into more applications for sUAS technology,” says Nate Ernst, President, Sky Scape.

Eric Gernath, CEO, SUEZ North America, says, “we strive to be innovative. Working with Sky Scape will help push our vision further and we are excited to begin utilizing the power of this valuable technology.”

Back in December 2017, SUEZ and SSI announced that the first small UAS use-case was executed with SUEZ, as SSI conducted a complete surface inspection of an elevated, multi-leg, 1 million gallon, water tank. This tank was designated by SUEZ and SSI for an initial use-case to get better insight on how UAS technology will work, as well as coming up with “better, preventative maintenance, schedules for inspections.”

Thanks to advanced flight planning and innovative data processing, SSI was able to safely and accurately inspect the tank, and deliver final analysis in less than half the time of traditional methods.

“Typically it takes a crew of 2 or 3 people spending at least 8 hours climbing a tank to inspect the components for issues,” says Michael Assante, Project Manager - SUEZ, New Jersey Operations. “It’s very time consuming and the fall hazard is very imminent.”

By using UAS, Sky Scape’s mission planning streamlined the data acquisition portion of the inspection by collecting 472 images, covering 100 percent of the tank’s surface and support legs in a total time of just two and a half hours.

While incorporating UAS technology in the water industry is considered “unorthodox by most,” according to the companies, they say that this technology “fits seamlessly with SUEZ’ strategy goals.” Ultimately, the first small UAS use-case announced in December 2017 showed the value that this technology could have when incorporated into a “relatively old-world industry.”

“The results exceeded my expectations,” says Emad Sidhom, Director of Engineering, SUEZ. “The report data from Sky Scape provided better quality data than previous methods, accessed the previously inaccessible, and showed potential issues of interest for future concern.”

​According to David Stanton, president of SUEZ in North America’s Utility Operations and Federal Services, using UAS for these types of tasks provides plenty of benefits.

“Drones help us accomplish vital tasks to perform our core functions,” Stanton says. “If this method is a safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly way to perform a task than there is no question, we must do it.”