The egg white drone lifted off from its ground station at a hospital construction site here, hovered for an instant, then zoomed off, sounding like a five-pound bee as it buzzed around the cranes towering over the six-acre project.
Capable of carrying a high-resolution camera and other sensors, the quadcopter, a helicopter with four rotors that resembles a spaceship from a 1950s science fiction movie, was flying in a demonstration of its ability to serve a potentially lucrative new market for drones: the energy industry.
Skycatch, a year-old startup based in San Francisco that has raised $3.2 million from Google and other investors, built the drone. The company has already signed deals to test its technology with the construction giants Bechtel and DPR; First Solar, a developer of photovoltaic power plants; and SolarCity, a solar panel installer. Drones from Skycatch and more established companies are monitoring power lines, inspecting oil and gas pipelines, checking wind turbines for defects and pinpointing malfunctioning solar panels. … (Read more)