Purdue interns at Indianapolis startup help develop drones for grid, inspection uses

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INDIANAPOLIS and WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Kevin Sheridan and Austin Williams, students at the Purdue College of Engineering, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, completed internships over the summer at Aerotronic LLC, an Indianapolis-based company developing and manufacturing drones and other unmanned aerial systems.

Sheridan believes that his experience as a Purdue student prepared him for the challenges of robotics at Aerotronic. 

“With the help of Purdue Research Foundation, I was able to gain experience running a robotics team at the Anvil, a co-working space located near the Purdue campus where students and community members can bring their innovation ideas to life,” Sheridan said.

Aerotronic’s technology is a remote-sensing, single-rotor helicopter called "Dauntless" that is capable of efficiently performing both hover and forward flight. The company’s drone includes more than 30 sensors monitors to collect in flight data for system health.  It also has the ability to carry multiple sensors to collect crucial data that can detect pipeline leaks and provide first responders with aerial views of areas stricken by natural or man-made disasters.

“Drones are beneficial in many fields because of their ability to gather information from the air,” said Neerav Shah, chief executive officer and founder of Aerotronic. “With drone technology, first responders can gain situational awareness about the site of an emergency before arriving so that they can be better prepared. Emergency personnel can obtain information in advance about the precise location and size of a fire or the whereabouts of a perpetrator.

Shah said Aerotronic drones have tremendous potential in the energy sector.

“Our drone technology can help to maintain power line integrity by replacing manned helicopters for transmission line inspections that ensure reliability of the electric grid,” he said. “The oil and gas industry continues to expand, and large-scale equipment such as offshore oil rigs require ongoing safety and maintenance inspections. Drones can be used to perform inspections remotely without the safety risk of sending an inspector into the air.”

Aerotronic is developing new capabilities to advance drone technology.

New onboard computing capabilities could allow drones to fly autonomously once programmed and process data on board and make decisions using artificial intelligence.

Aerotronic is also working to couple its drone technology with sensors that meet industry needs, from thermal sensors for oil and gas industries or first responders to health sensors for agriculture. Once specific needs are determined, the drone can be equipped.

Shah credits Purdue University and the state of Indiana for providing valuable resources to his company. 

“As an alumnus of Purdue University, I chose Purdue students because of their talent.  Purdue is a world-class university that draws students from all over the world to come here to get a high-quality education,” Shah said. “The state of Indiana has been instrumental in providing mentorship, marketing, coaches, and network connections and in helping Aerotronic become competitive on the national level.”

About the Anvil

The Anvil is a co-working space at Purdue University that serves the unique needs of passionate students, acting as a center of creative culture in West Lafayette. The Anvil focuses on providing local and student-run startups affordable office space. 

About Purdue Research Foundation

The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Established in 1930, the foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds scholarships and grants; acquires property; protects Purdue's intellectual property; and promotes entrepreneurial activities on behalf of Purdue. The foundation manages the Purdue Foundry, Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, Purdue Research Park and Purdue Technology Centers. The foundation received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org

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