Innovation Showcase: Rectrix Drone Services

Innovation Showcase: Rectrix Drone Services

Rectrix uses drones to provide bespoke solutions for a wide range of sectors. Business development manager Christopher Young talks to BQ about exactly what the company does, and why it is entered into Innovation Showcase at this year's Venturefest Tees Valley.

Describe your business in no more than 100 words

Rectrix Drone Services is a ‘disruptive technology’ business, which uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. The company provides bespoke solutions for a wide range of sectors including oil and gas, petrochemical, renewables, surveying, property management integrity and the emergency response sector. The type of services includes asset integrity management inspection, 2D/3D land and building surveying and volumetric analysis.

What prompted you to enter the innovation showcase?

Having recently expanded overseas, we wanted to show industries in the North East just what this technology is capable of, and how it can help them streamline their business.

Describe the innovation that you’ve entered the showcase with.

With drone technology advancing at an exponential rate we have developed new and innovative ways to use this technology for high hazard industries. We use the drones to inspect assets such as flare tips – which act as an exhaust pipe – on industrial plants. The traditional way to inspect these would be to shut the flare tip down and either send rope access teams up or to erect scaffold, this means that the flare tip is taken offline which in turn meant the plant is losing production capability and costs are high. With the drone, we can inspect the flare tip while still in operation, meaning less risk as people are not working at height and parts can be ordered before shutdown takes place saving time and money for the operator.

A large operator recently approached us to see if we could use the drones to help them analyse material stockpiles, their traditional method for getting the tonnage for these materials was using the paperwork that they received and this was causing the company to lose money and time as sometimes these weights were incorrect. We developed a service whereby we would come to the site with our drone and launch it on several automated flights, during these flights the drone would collect between 2000 – 3000 photos. Once this data was collected and we had returned to the office, we would create a specialised 3D digital terrain model, and using the specialised software we would be able to analyse each stockpile and give them accuracy within 1.5% of the actual weight. The client was then able to get regular updates on their stock and in the long run save time and cost by minimising the loss of stock.

How would you describe that innovation to your grandparents?

We fly small aircraft, to look for problems that usually would require sending people to work at height.

What are the best and worst parts of trying to be innovative in your business?

With the rapid evolution of the industry there are always new innovations coming to the drone sector, and learning how to integrate them into new services that we can offer is one of the best parts of the job.

With this new technology people are very skeptical of the results it can produce, a lot of companies have looked at drones and have not had the right information given to them, and as a result it has not produced what they are looking for. So, when talking to new companies it’s trying to overcome the original skepticism and just show them what the right kit can produce.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Currently and especially in heavy industry there are tried and tested techniques for inspecting hard to reach places such as rope access teams or scaffolding around the asset. So, most companies are happy with their current methods. It’s getting in front of the correct people to show them just how it can reduce risk, save time and cut costs for them.

Currently, a lot of companies believe that we just turn up with the drone on-site and take off and take pictures, but there is a lot more work that goes into planning for a flight. We will do site visits before a flight even takes place, produce method statements and risk assessments, to show that the flight can be done safely and professionally. Then there is the report making after the flight is complete which can take a couple of days to create with the amount of data we produce.

Where do you get support and advice to help you run your business?

Being based at the Fusion Hive has helped a lot, we get a lot of support from Teesside University, as well as Innovate Tees Valley. We have recently been working with the Department for International Trade, with help in looking to expand overseas.

What does being chosen for the innovation showcase mean to you?

It’s a fantastic opportunity to get in front of some of the leading business leaders and being able to show them just what drones are capable of doing, and some of the new and innovative ways in which the technology is being used.

Where do you see your company in five years’ time?

We hope to be one of the top drone solution providers to companies not just in the UK, but globally as well. Being able to get the right solution for the client.

What would you tell businesses who are hoping to be more innovative?

Look for a market where you think your idea can help streamline a business, if you can prove to them that it will help them save time and cut costs most companies are will to listen to you and help you grow.