Issue 54 Uncrewed Sytems Technology Feb/Mar 2024 uWare uOne UUV l Radio and telemetry l Rheinmetall Canada medevacs l UUVs insight DelltaHawk engine l IMU focus l Skygauge in operation l CES 2024 report l Blueflite l Hypersonic flight

95 market, and one of the biggest reasons why you find as much scaffolding and rope access as you do when looking up at plants, factories, chimneys, tanks and other industrial assets. “It isn’t a replacement for IR surveys; the two are quite apples and oranges from each other, especially given that there are regulations mandating certain types of inspections for different types of industrial structure. “Standard API653 for storage tanks, for instance, dictates that you have to check the thickness of their metal walls every five years – maybe more often, depending on what you find in terms of corrosion rates – so you simply must do it. There is just no substitute for ultrasonic thickness testing. It has been done for decades across all sorts of industrial sites and our customers are now doing it by drone.” The Skygauge UAV The Skygauge UAV is a coaxial quadrotor (or ‘X-8’, as some have referred to the configuration) with four shrouded rotor pairs and a horizontal boom extending from the front of the airframe, on which an ultrasonic gauge is installed for inspection work. It weighs approximately 7 kg and measures around 90 x 90 cm x 40 cm when deployed (or 70 x 70 cm when collapsed and packaged into its standard carry case). Battery-electric, the system flies for 10 minutes between recharges or battery swaps, which Korol admits is short for multirotors nowadays. “But, given that it rarely flies more than 100 m away from where its technicians and spare batteries are, extending flight time really isn’t an urgent focus of our development,” he says. “It just lands, we replace batteries, and we keep on going. Other industrial inspection UAVs might fly kilometres and kilometres away, but that’s not our use case at all.” The original founder of Skygauge Robotics was Linar Ismagilov, who invented and designed the UAV, and is now chief design officer. The concept first came to him at high school, while mulling how UAVs might perform more tasks than the photography sessions they were limited to at the time. “He didn’t have a clear picture then of the mechanics required or of a niche use case; more a feeling that one could create a UAV capable of interacting with a physical environment, and be more stable and manoeuvrable than multirotors generally are today,” Korol says. “A multirotor that has to pitch or dip around to move around is never going to do anything needing a stable or steady hand, he figured.” After forming a concept for an alternative UAV design in 2015, Ismagilov met with Korol and Nikita Iliushkin (now chief commercial officer), who co-founded the company with him. Together, they engaged in R&D for the UAV, until receiving their first funding round in 2018, whereupon they were able to build and fly a working prototype. In 2019, the Ontario-based Skygauge was invited to join HAX Accelerator, whose main offices are in San Francisco, Shenzhen and Tokyo. This gave the three men access to wider expertise, investment and suppliers. In the following year (during Covid), the trio spent six months in the UK with a prospective client, developing a ConOps for using their UAV in ultrasonic testing, and they demonstrated it Skygauge UAV ultrasonic inspections | In operation Getting a UAV to precisely hold an ultrasonic tool against a vertical wall is extremely challenging, whether it’s autonomous or remotely piloted Uncrewed Systems Technology | February/March 2024 The company’s launch application is ultrasonic inspection, using a boom-mounted contact sensor extending from the front of the airframe