Thursday 31 August 2017 4:48 pm

UK drone firm wins the backing of Japanese industrial giant Mitsui

A UK-based drone company is set to receive a $4m (£3m) investment from Japanese conglomerate Mitsui.

Sky Futures provides drone-based industrial inspection technology. With drones, companies can more safely inspect industrial equipment like oil rigs.

The strategic partnership, to be announced today, is launched in tandem with Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to Japan. It will expand the use of Sky Futures’ drone-based technology to Mitsui’s global network in the energy, marine and infrastructure sectors.

​“This partnership with Mitsui brings industrial drone inspection into the mainstream. Demand for drone survey software is rocketing as a result of the shift to AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning that is fundamentally changing the way inspection is done,” said James Harrison, chief executive at Sky Futures.

The Middlesex-based company said using drones in place of humans is potentially more cost effective. In some situations, like inspecting gas flares on oil rigs, firms can avoid shut downs that would cost them millions per day by deploying drones.

Ryutato Kiyohara, general manager of ship project development at Mitsui said: “From ships through to drill ships and FPSOs [floating production storage and offloading ships], inspection plays a vital role for the safe and efficient operation of plants, transportation and infrastructure projects.

"We value our experience of working with Sky Futures on our own projects, and this is an opportunity to use our global reach to make a difference with our customers’ projects worldwide.”

The funding will help Sky Futures as it expands to offer software, training, services and consultancy in addition to its core remote sension and 3D modelling of infrastructure.