Renewable Energy Network hosts drone discussion

The Renewable Action Network hosted a talk centered on drones and their potential for use in several areas.

The talk was hosted in the Aiken Center and was open to all students.

The Renewable Energy Network is a student organization in the Office of Sustainability.

Its goal is to help prepare students for careers in renewable energy, according to the Clean Energy Fund’s website.

REN brought in Ian Ray and Jon Budreski, co-founders of Airshark, a start-up that uses drone technology to inspect construction sites, power lines and solar farms. Budreski is a UVM alumnus.

The mission of Airshark is to use drones to check that large-scale technologies are working properly and safely, without having to risk the safety of workers and save the time of sending them climbing up powerlines or telephone poles, they said.

For example, when inspecting a bridge, instead of using a crane, which could cause traffic holdups, a drone could be used to minimize safety risks, Budreski said.

The drones are equipped with cameras and thermal sensors that feed information back to a live screen or record information for future use.

Because of the privacy and safety of the general public concerning drones, Budreski said they check for problems and efficiency issues regarding the more dangerous uses of drones.

“People don’t want to see drones flying around their neighborhoods or backyards checking out their power lines,” Budreski said.

The drones can also be used for marketing and communications purposes, Ray said.

An image of a solar farm in winter captured from above by a drone is picturesque, but also shows that solar energy is a good energy source year-round, “even in the snow, even in Vermont,” he said.

In terms of why Airshark focuses on renewable energy specifically, Budreski said “it’s a vibrant, growing field. There’s all this energy coming in from Canada and it’s not going to be pretty but it’s happening.”

REN’s president senior Freddie Hall was impressed with their entrepreneurial strategy and timing.

“Jon was a pilot and Ian worked in photography,” Hall said. “They used what they knew a decade ago, now, to fill a market that wasn’t there.”

The Airshark presentation was a part of an ongoing series hosted by the Renewable Energy Network.