More Efficient Inspections: Beyond the Line of Sight

While growing up in a small Illinois town, Trevor Perrott, a product of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, regularly heard farmers lamenting crop losses. He understood that close, continuous crop inspections are essential to preventing losses.

With the global population predicted to hit 9.6 billion by 2050, farmers urgently need to increase crop yields and reduce losses caused by pests, plant disease, poor irrigation and other challenges. Aside from agriculture, energy infrastructure is another prevalent area in need of inspection. In 2013, the US oil industry spent over $2.1B inspecting over 72,000 miles of pipeline.

Aerial inspections of farmland and infrastructure offer efficiency, but traditional unmanned aerial systems (UAS) called quadcopters can only fly relatively short distances within the operator’s line of sight. Manned aircraft and satellites can fly farther but they cost more, and there is a sacrifice of image resolution and relevance in many cases. Long range drones can bring low-cost, high-fidelity information to industries in need of it, and that is where a group out of Embry-Riddle has come to focus.

Perrott and two other former Embry-Riddle students, Payal Chaudhari and John Lobdell, launched Censys Technologies Corporation to develop long-range, high-efficiency UAS. Specifically, they are developing drones that can fly beyond the operator’s line of sight. They are also evaluating fuel-burning, hybrid and electric propulsion systems, to maximize the efficiency of their UAS technology.

The business, initially envisioned as a way to improve agricultural productivity, also suggests a more efficient way to inspect oil pipelines. By federal law, all pipelines must be thoroughly assessed every 21 days.

Censys Technologies Corporation, an incubator tenant in the John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex (MicaPlex) near Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus, will offer turnkey inspection solutions that “cover a lot of ground but also reduce the price compared to other approaches,” Perrott said. “We are developing a very particular type of energy-management system that balances payload and propulsion power requirements of our UAS.”

While they were still students, Perrott and Lobdell launched their own engineering team, which received assistance from Embry-Riddle’s Office of Undergraduate Research. More recently, the nonprofit FireSpring Fund, an Embry-Riddle innovation partner, provided Censys Technologies Corporation with a $25,000 seed investment.

Perrott said that being a MicaPlex incubator tenant has helped his startup because it keeps them close to people, resources, and equipment that support the mission. Thriving on the rich aerospace culture and high-caliber students at Embry-Riddle, the Censys team remains confident the business relationship with ERAU will be mutually beneficial well into the future.

For more information on Censys Technologies Corporation, see