Bedford company sending drones to survey earthquake damage in Ecuador

A Halifax-based drone company will team up with an energy engineering firm to put high-end technology to the disaster-relief test  in Ecuador during the next 10 days. 

AeroVision Canada, located in Bedford, will partner with Waterford Energy Services Inc. of St. John's to offer inspection services, survey mapping, and 3D modelling of the major infrastructure damage caused by the quake. 

On April 16, the magnitude 7.8 quake struck Ecuador. More than 650 people died — including four Canadians. 

"I feel it's incumbent on us to use the technology for better reasons than just trying to make a quick buck," said Trevor Bergmann, AeroVision's general manager.

"It's important to show that drones can be used for good." 

'A byproduct of who we are'

AeroVision was contacted by GlobalMedic out of Toronto after offering help for Ecuador-focused relief through an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) network of companies and operators.

The company will send two drone pilots — including Bergmann — along with a Waterford engineer to the northern coast of Ecuador for 10 days. 

Trevor Bergmann

Trevor Bergmann, AeroVision's general manager, said GlobalMedic got in touch with them just 24 hours after their offer of help was made. (CBC)

Offering AeroVision's help is "just a byproduct of who we are," Bergmann said. They'll join other disaster-relief teams deployed from Canada. 

"I'd say for the last 36 hours, it's been a rapid, rapid logistical plan, I guess if we can call it one, to try to make flights happen, get the gear ready to go," he said. 

New territory

Blair MacDougall, president of Waterford Energy Services, said the two companies have partnered for industrial oil and gas inspections "for quite some time."

But it will be Waterford's first disaster-relief scenario. They'll also be footing the transportation bill. 

"It's just the right thing to do," he said. "It's just kind of ironic that with the state of the oil and gas industry, we're able to get involved with something like this so I"m really excited, really pleased." 

Blair MacDougall, Waterford Energy Services Inc.

Blair MacDougall said helping in a disaster-relief scenario will be new territory for Waterford Energy Services Inc. (CBC)

Reaching 'isolated' region

Bergmann said there's a lot of valuable oil and gas experience between the two companies. In an area they'll survey in Ecuador, their high-resolution cameras are needed to view a liquid natural gas plant. 

"One of the big concerns they have is getting in and out of the different regions," Bergmann said. 

"Being so isolated from a quake that damaging has made it very difficult for the government and military and other teams to be able to asses and access the areas."

Canadian technology

Bergmann's proud of and confident in the Canadian-designed technology they'll be taking with them. In particular, it will help with work in "adverse conditions," such as high winds. 

"It rates very near if not the top, based on the level of design that's been put into the system," he said. 

The team leaves for the Halifax airport at 5 a.m. Saturday. They're feeling the pressure to plan thoroughly, Bergmann said, but that stress is created by their own standards. 

"The only way we can make this work from a personal level is the support from our families," he said. 

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