While drone technology continues to soar, some Tampa Bay companies are taking it to new heights — literally.


St. Pete-based 5×5 Technologies Inc. and Swampfox Aerial LLC, which is breaking into the Tampa market, both use drone technology to survey buildings and land — which otherwise cannot be reached without, in some cases, risking surveyors’ lives.


“Being able to limit people who have to climb towers is a massive benefit and the data you get is very powerful,” 5×5 Technologies Inc. CEO and Co-founder Anna
Zink said. Zink’s company develops technology to support commercial use of drones. It is also taking advantage of the drone technology and creating 3D models for clients, which allow them to see the tiniest of details.


“A drone can come in and in the span of 20 minutes can take a scan of the tower; you can see everything you want to see,” she said. “So customers can have the experience of flying around the tower: they can stop and zoom in, they can show it and still they can get a 3D experience.”


5×5 recently partnered with SoftBank in Japan after gaining traction in the United States and continues to look at global markets in Latin America and Africa. “SoftBank is a customer and inspector — they inspected their own cell towers with drones,” Zink said. “As they got to know us, they looked at us with our technical road map and their inspection strategy in Japan. We found it would be a really good partnership. We’re starting a large enterprise because that will deliver the most robustly in terms of scalability and security.”


Charleston, South Carolina-based Swampfox, which started in January this year, is slowly trying to disrupt how drone technology is being utilized and is currently being used in the Tampa Bay area. Swampfox takes a pulsing laser beam, gathers data points from the ground and then gives that data to surveyors to complete a land survey.


“Drones are expensive and you have to be a licensed surveyor, have licensed FAA pilots and you have to know what you’re doing,” said Blake Whitney Thompson, founder of St. Petersburg-based Blake Investment Partners. Thompson is also a minority investor in Swampfox. “It makes it hard for guys like me. We could do all those things, but we’re none of them. But we like the fact that we get our permits faster, we do due diligence faster and do it all cheaper.”


As for the future of drones and the technology? Tom Ihrke, president of Swampfox, said for him the future is exciting in this industry because it is less about the drones themselves and more about the technology the drone is simply carrying. “The drones are just a truck but they can transport something high-tech,” Ihrke said. “It’s the sensor that matters. We’re actively involved at looking at what are the new technologies there. With drones, not much is changing; it’s the technology that drones use. What they’re being able to put on the bottom of a drone to measure things, photograph things, laser measurements; that’s where technology is used by drones and in my mind is more important and exciting.”


Source: Tampa Bay Business Journal