Phil Castle, The Business Times
The sky is no longer the limit for a Grand Junction-based company that’s applied technology and techniques developed for aerial imaging to underground settings.
In taking services to a new level, limits of other kinds disappear not only for customers, but also the prospects for a growing operation.
“The possibilities are limitless, I think,” said Chris Putnam, a data analyst and drone pilot for Dragonfly AI, a division of HRL Compliance Solutions.
Rob Hale, another analyst and pilot for the company, said what’s been trademarked as TunnelVision could be used in a variety of ways in mining and other underground industries.
Maurice Foye, chief operating officer of HRL Compliance Solutions, said he expects the Dragonfly operation could quadruple over the next year.
Dragonfly provides a range of series to a variety of industries using unmanned aerial systems, also known as drones. In addition to high-resolution imagery, the company offers multispectral and thermal imaging. Information collected by rotary and fixed-wing drones can be used for surveying, to monitor for changes in landscape or create three-dimensional models.
Putnam said Dragonfly customizes its services depending on what customers need and provides information in a way that tells a story.
The company created realistic three-dimensional models for an energy company to show what a proposed well site would look like to nearby
residents and turned a model of a golf course into a simulation in which people could play the course on computers.
The technology offers accuracy to 3 centimeters and is more comprehensive than traditional surveying techniques using far fewer points of reference, Putnam said. “We’re taking all the guesswork out.”
Computer models created with that information are just as accurate and offer the ability to measure distances and calculate volumes.
Foye said Dragonfly performs a lot of work for the energy industry, but also the construction sector and government agencies. That work fits in with the environmental consulting services HRL Compliance provides, including air emissions compliance, permitting, site assessments, remediation and waste management.
Applying aerial imaging technology and techniques to underground settings is far different, though, and so far unique, Foye said.”This hasn’t been done before.”
For one thing, drones typically connect with global positioning system satellites to determine their positions and complete flights autonomously. But GPS isn’t available underground.
Dragonfly has tested and refined techniques for underground imaging and modeling without GPS. The company collected images and information along a 3,000-foot-long gold mine shaft near Telluride to create a three-dimensional model.
Hale said such models can be used for a variety of purposes in not only pinpointing where mines are located, but also in assisting with engineering and evaluating and improving the safety of operations. Simulations could be created to provide virtual tours for miners and show them where to go in the event of emergencies, he said.
The next step in the process, Hale said, is to remotely collect data, which could mean flying drones underground.
Foye said the work Dragonfly has completed has attracted the attention of several mining operations. But he also sees applications for Tunnel Vision in the construction and transportation industries. He expects Tunnel Vision to lead to more work for Dragonfly and HRL Compliance and, in turn, increased staffing.
Foye said Michael Andrews, the newly hired president of HRL Compliance Solutions, has helped push for new markets for Dragonfly AI. Andrews brings to his duties more than 25 years of experience in the electric generation, energy, mining, and utilities industries.
For now, Putnam said he’s excited to work for a company using technology in new ways. “It’s cool to be a part of it. And it’s cool to be on the cutting edge of it.”
For more information about Dragonfly AI or HRL Compliance Solutions, call 243-3271 or visit www.hrlcomp.com.