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Grand Forks company highlights drones' date-gathering potential

One Grand Forks drone company is looking to make converting data collected by aircraft into usable information for its clients.

Staff members from software startup EdgeData outlined the work their company does during the monthly Drone Biz luncheon held Thursday in Grand Forks.

Aerial inspection is one of the fastest growing areas of drone use in the United States but all that data collected during inspections needs to be translated into information businesses can use to make decisions.

"We want to make the decision-making process as easy as possible," Director of Operations Greg Thorsteinson said.

EdgeData creates software that manages maintenance of wind turbine called BladeEdge. Raw footage taken by a drone is inputted into the software, which uses algorithms to automatically detect damage and create maintenance schedules for turbines, among other features.

EdgeData's location allows the company to test its product in an area where turbines take a beating from harsh winter conditions and near-constant wind. The use of the software paired with drone technology can result in significant cost savings for clients.

Wind turbines are typically inspected by a crew of workers who need to rappel up and down the structure in order to find damage. The process takes about 10 hours, Thorsteinson said, but can be cut down to about 45 minutes by flying a drone over the turbine.

Once that imagery is acquired, the BladeEdge software can identify damage and calculate how much it could be affecting the turbine and the customer's bottom line.

"Essentially, what you can predict is what your expected power output is, your monthly revenue potential, your output loss due to the damage and your monthly revenue loss," Thorsteinson said.

Drone Biz is a monthly luncheon featuring presentations from drone industry members and a networking opportunity for those want to learn more about the industry.

It is held from noon to 1 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at varying locations. For more information visit: https://evolve-nd.com/.

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