Drones Go to New Heights

AERIUM Analytics Inc.
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

AERIUM Analytics Inc. is a multi-disciplinary remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) solutions provider that’s taken what was once a concept and leveraged it into a valuable tool that will improve a variety of outcomes in complex operational environments across industries and sectors.

Founded in 2016, the Calgary-based company has evolved from the nearly forty years of experience of its sister company, the Lorrnel Group. (The Lorrnel Group is a regulatory project-planning consultant that provides specialized solutions including pre- and post-construction services to oil, gas, forestry, aggregates, and local municipalities.)

AERIUM Analytics is the coming together of a team of subject matter experts in machine learning, computer vision, software development, remote sensing, geomatics, engineering, regulatory compliance, environmental sciences, GIS, and business operations to rethink how complex operations and environments are managed.

“Drones are not an industry, but a disruptive technology across multiple industries,” says President and CEO Jordan Cicoria. “The opportunities lie in using existing technology in new and creative ways to increase safety, decrease dependence on fossil fuels, and help modernize processes that have been around a long time.”

AERIUM Analytics develops industry-specific operations and wildlife management solutions for airports, mining operations, and other large industrial sites like tailing ponds for oil and gas operations. In these applications, drones can easily replace manual or carbon-intensive processes to save lives and money and protect biodiversity and the environment.

The company’s reputation is founded on operating in highly regulated industries with strict compliance in complex and ever-changing environments where it’s not afraid to ask, “How do you safely and effectively create programs to mitigate those risks and use these tools to the best of their abilities, across industries and applications?”

What is RoBird®?
One of AERIUM Analytics’ most revolutionary offerings is RoBird®, a proprietary wildlife management technology and bird mitigation tool. It’s designed as a flapping wing drone without propellers and acts as a deterrent to birds and wildlife.

According to Cicoria, RoBird® can be deployed “anywhere there is what we call a negative human-bird interaction. It mimics a female peregrine falcon.” This falcon is an apex predator feared for its prowess in hunting.

RoBird® is a safe and humane way to reduce bird populations in industrial settings and complex environments. It’s an effective and immediate solution to dispersing wildlife, but it’s also a long-term solution as it has been proved that with consistent operation, fewer birds return to these areas of operation.

Airports and aviation
Typically, drones are a nuisance for airports. In 2018, drone sightings caused the closure of Gatwick Airport in the UK just days before Christmas, during an extremely busy travel window, making it the most serious disruption at the airport since the Iceland volcano eruption in 2010.

As a pioneer in the RPAS space, particularly in airport management and regulatory compliance applications, AERIUM Analytics has performed over 2,500 flights at major airports across North America. The company conducts inspections of airport runways and perimeter security, replacing conventional methods, which consume much in the way of time, labour, and fossil fuels, and are costly and inaccurate by comparison.

By deploying drone technology, equipped with its next-generation, real-time detection software for foreign object debris (FOD) in place of physical inspections and traditional bird control and mitigation techniques, AERIUM Analytics can reduce emissions, aircraft damage, insurance claims, delays and downtime, protect biodiversity, and improve safety outcomes for birds and humans alike.

In 2019, there were approximately 20,000 reported bird-strike incidents in Canada and the U.S. and over 200,000 wildlife strikes with civil aircraft reported between 1990 and 2020. Between 2016 and 2021, RoBird® reduced bird strikes at Edmonton International Airport by 50 percent. In the first year of its operation at Grand Forks International Airport, there was a 67 percent reduction. 2021 saw an additional 50 percent reduction.

Further, the removal of inspection vehicles alone generates a saving in emissions equal to the annual electricity use of fifty-five homes. The reduced reliance on inspection aircraft eliminates the equivalent of up to ten million litres of jet fuel or the equivalent of 16,000 homes’ electricity usage. By securing even ten percent of the global airport market, AERIUM Analytics can remove 8,500 vehicles from service.

Energy and mining
AERIUM Analytics has also asserted itself as a valuable player in the energy sector, supporting bird deterrence and mine remediation activities by leveraging RPAS-derived mapping and through the delivery of wildlife management strategies.

Tailing ponds are attractive to migratory bird species as stopover points, and as such, they cause thousands of bird fatalities each year which threaten biodiversity and result in millions of dollars in fines. In over 4,000 deployments over four years, RoBird®’s dispersal encounters have effectively hazed wildlife in the measured zones away from the water, ground, and perch areas.

In a case study of a Northern Albertan tailing ponds site, RoBird®, in year one of its deployment, achieved a 75 percent reduction of bird mortalities, followed by a further 85 percent reduction the following year. That’s good for the environment, biodiversity, a company’s reputation and the bottom line.

Military and defence analytics
Data is an important aspect of military and defence operations, and AERIUM Analytics has partnered with the sector to collect and utilize data to identify security threats and inform strategic planning and coordination efforts.

Specifically, AERIUM Analytics is working with its partners on Project SkySensus, which is led by Arcfield Canada in partnership with Canadian UAVs, BVLOS InC and Foremost UAS Range, to research, develop and commercialize Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) technology in unmanned systems, and related hardware and software developments for application to the RPAS industry, its operational standards and training.

Project SkySensus research and development is growing AERIUM Analytics’ capacity to combine and compile terabytes of geospatial information and analyze and report this information in a more scalable and manageable fashion, doing so in a fraction of the time that conventional methods take.

Construction, forestry, and more
AERIUM Analytics is a national leader in the innovative utilization and integration of RPAS across industries, including the construction and forestry sectors. Its team of advanced pilots, geomatics professionals, and surveyors safely acquire data and ensure that deliverables are accurate, repeatable, and auditable.

Specific to forestry, AERIUM Analytics merges airborne LiDAR and photogrammetry with terrestrial LiDAR and conventional survey and has developed accurate and repeatable methodologies for fibre volumetric measurements, regrowth, site monitoring, road and infrastructure development, and maintenance.

What the future holds
With nothing but positive results and promise, AERIUM Analytics is looking to expand its reach and impact around the globe. The strategy to do that, however, has changed a bit in light of the global pandemic.

“We had just purchased the worldwide rights and IP to RoBird® in February 2020, right before the pandemic hit, so the plan was to start this back then. However, during the pandemic, we were able to solidify our work with our airport clients and were able to begin our penetration into the mining and energy industries. The pandemic made us realize that managing a global workforce would be more challenging than originally planned,” says Cicoria.

Since the goal was to take its services global, AERIUM Analytics has focused on growing its relationships in the U.S., Europe, South America, and Asia, to expand its airport service operations (FOD and runway markings analysis) through a SaaS model, while also deploying 900 RoBird® devices in a hardware-as-a-service (HaaS) model over the next five years.

AERIUM Analytics will continue to offer service for complex pieces that are not able to be outsourced. As Cicoria explains, “We are going to be putting our tools in the hands of trusted partners to help expand the geographic reach even further.” This includes training, maintenance, and safety auditing to support its partners and ensure the quality and performance of service delivery.

The reason for this, Cicoria notes, is that “Having people all over the world just doesn’t make sense anymore, especially in a post-pandemic world. So it’s not out of necessity, but out of opportunity that we are looking at this transition, this pivot into producing solutions and technology, processes and expertise.”

Cleaner fuels
Another major focus for the future is hydrogen. As a green technology solutions provider, AERIUM Analytics is invested in the industry, particularly with its support for partners in the transition to carbon neutrality.

For Cicoria, “It’s kind of two-fold: first and foremost, we look at ourselves as a parallel or peripheral technology in the sense that we accomplish a lot of the same goals as what is happening in hydrogen. It’s all about the reduction of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.”

AERIUM Analytics and its partners are looking at how they can collaboratively support the transition to hydrogen and how drone technology can assist these efforts, as well as how drone technology can leverage hydrogen as a fuel source to improve length of flight and facilitate the use of heavier, larger drones with more sensors onboard.

As a market leader committed to continuous improvement and innovation, AERIUM Analytics was an attendee at the Canadian Hydrogen Convention which was a perfect opportunity to showcase its offerings and find out how best to be part of the collective solution in transitioning away from fossil fuels.

“Half the challenge is just getting people in a room to think about new ways of doing things and what exists and how to do it. We’re a very small piece of a very big global challenge. We’re happy with our role in that but it’s about how we’re going to accomplish these goals together,” says Cicoria of AERIUM Analytics’ commitment to advancing clean fuels and technologies across industries and sectors.



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