Mexican Firm “Unmanned Systems Technology International” has invested US $5 million over the past five years to build an all-Mexican drone that can be used for surveillance and security purposes or for information gathering in the petroleum, agriculture, health and military sectors, among others.
Company president Mauricio Ramos Pons said the firm has United States certification for the import and use of aviation-grade carbon fiber used in the aircraft’s construction.
He said the drone can fly in a direct line for 30 to 100 kilometers and can reach an altitude of 3,600 meters, or 12,000 feet. It can fly for up to seven hours and burns premium gasoline.
The company’s plant is located in Apodaca, where it anticipates producing 20 drones per year. (There was no mention of how much the aircraft might sell for, though).
Would you like to learn how to pilot a drone? Well now it’s possible by attending their first drone school which is due to open in Mexico.
The school is located in the Stratominds complex in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. It is an IT training center that uses simulators and drones produced by Helidroid. Both of these businesses belong to projects financed by start-up investment fund Lightcone Investments.
According to Jose Luis Gonzalez, CEO of Lighthouse Investments, the idea to open up the school came as a result of the interest shown by customers buying Helidroid drones.
“Drone users want to protect their investment, as mid- to high-spectrum drones can cost between 50,000 and 100,000 pesos. And more importantly, they want to learn how to fly the drone before buying it,” explained Gonzalez.
Courses already started in September 2014. The training program costs $5,000 pesos ($382 USD) and lasts for 50 hours – comprising eight hours of theory and 42 hours of practical experience. Lightcone’s CEO explains how the theory section involves practice sessions in two simulators: virtual reality and surround screens. Each has a direct interface with a real controller used to manage the flight of the drone.
The practical sessions involve students undergoing a series of tasks designed to manage the flight of the drones. According to Gonzalez, these involve, take-off, landing, displacements and how to operate the drone in manual and automatic mode. “There are also precision tasks, such as passing through hoops, circumnavigating an object and getting from A to B.”
At the end of the course, a license to pilot drones lighter than 20 kilos is granted.
Real World Applications
Drones are becoming widely used in many parts of the world and their uses are becoming more and more diverse. According to Gonzalez, they are being used in fields such as cinema, photography, security, tracking, surveillance and search and rescue.
The Firebird 1 drone, manufactured by Helidroid, can carry up to 20 kilos, can fly up to 60 kilometers an hour and has a battery lasting up to 45 minutes; enabling it to carry, among other things, high definition cameras, infrared sensors and a Gimbal stabilization system.
Precise control of the drone’s movements from a distance is essential. According to Gonzalez, one of their uses is monitoring pipelines with different internal and external pressure ratings, caused by differences in temperature. An infrared camera, carried by a drone can identify any change in temperature and thereby spot any leaks.
“Drones have also been used to monitor large electrical towers. This job is generally done manually. However, it is now possible for a drone carrying a camera to monitor the stability of the cables and the towers themselves; resulting in a lot less effort and risk to human life,” Gonzalez said.
The stakes that Lightcone have in the drone world are high. According to their CEO, they are looking to create a group of businesses focused on the manufacturing of these devices, from production and distribution to training and service providing. When it comes to pilot training, the drone school will expand over the next few months to include Mexico City and other entities that are willing to enter into alliances with new business partners, he indicated.
“Today, we sell drones to businesses but we ourselves have the capabilities needed to verticalize and offer services,” Gonzalez added. “Once we have achieved verticality in the drone market, we will be able to develop a specialized service area. We are putting a lot of time and money into research development and marketing,” he concluded.
By Norberto Gaona
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