Zhang with one of his flying robots during a recent presentation.

“Visual inspection is a costly and dangerous business,” says Dick Zhang, founder and CEO of Identified Technologies. “At least it is if everyone keeps inspecting sites the ways they have been,” he adds. “We’ve come up with a system using quadra-rotor robotic craft that inexpensively automates the entire process.”

Think flying robots.

Identified Technologies, an AlphaLab Gear start-up based in East Liberty, uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to automatically provide inspections of military, construction, gas, and energy sites. “Right now, companies can spend $20,000 to lease a helicopter, or send out teams that have to mull over miles of industrial sites with binoculars and scopes to do what we can do better and safer, in a fraction of the time and cost,” says Zhang. “And they can get their data in real time which speeds up everything at a worksite.”

While the company is starting out with site inspection, the goal is to move onto agriculture, home inspection, emergency medical and other industries. “We feel the potential uses for our services is huge,” says Zhang.

So far, Identified, which grew out of research at the University of Pennsylvania for military use in finding explosive devices (IEDs), has grown to “a system that can collect images, operational data, or gas readings” with multiple UAVs assigned the inspection tasks.

Zhang compares his method to the traditional one. “I mean what can you expect when a visual inspector needs to look at all sites from afar with binoculars and make assessments? They have to travel all over a site in very rough and dangerous terrain. Our machines also travel throughout the site, but they do it automatically gliding through and over the inspection site with ease.

At the end of the day, our Identified Technologies reports are complete, and they’re in the hands of the decision makers. That is a big boost in productivity.”

Frank Sowa

Strategy consultant, writer, business and tech researcher and entrepreneur