Drones increase efficiency, safety for one local business

By Sarah Rudlang on Jan 10, 2018 at 10:19 p.m.

FARGO — A Fargo company is gaining a new bird’s-eye perspective through thermal imaging drones to check buildings for energy loss, all while reducing the risk of danger to its employees.

RJ Energy Solutions LLC partnered with the drone operators at SkySkopes so that workers will not have to climb on icy rooftops for inspections.

“People are already getting hurt by being on the roof and icicles coming off the roof,” Russell Schell, President of RJ Energy Solutions LLC explained. “So we looked at putting our thermal imaging lens to a drone and flying above a building that way we can see where energy loss is at, or ice damming or any roof damages or anything like that.”

Schell understands the danger of the job first-hand, after climbing onto icy roofs with a handheld thermal camera for over 20 years.

“I about fell down a couple times, and I’m thinking, there’s got to be a better way for doing this.”

That ‘better way’ manifested after two years of planning, with a final building inspection test using drones, Wednesday afternoon at Scheels Arena.

A large building that would once take several days was reduced to hours using the drones.

While the structure of the arena was good, the crews managed to locate a small water leak.

SkySkopes President and CEO Matt Dunlevy believes it’s a game-changer for energy companies moving forward.

“I really think that this is an example of the fact that the energy bills that we all are paying, are going to go down and that’s also going to save money for companies like Xcel Energy and Cass County,” Dunlevy said.

The drones calculate thermographic data coming off the buildings and translate it into cost, that way they can see how many dollars are being lost due to heat escape.

Schell says heat escape can be costly to businesses, which is how they have managed to save companies anywhere from $650 to $10,000 dollars a month after solving their energy problems.

“The drones that we use or SkySkopes has, we can get pretty close to a unit to see if it’s running, we can get data off it, there’s a lot of things we can get using drone technology,” Schell said.

RJ Energy Solutions LLC plans to use the drone technology full-time moving forward.

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