Alexey Dobrovolskiy explains what his company has learned about using UAVs for searching under the surface of the Earth – and the sea – since it accidentally entered the business four years ago, as well as why it has now opened a range for testing new sensors mounted on UAVs.
Our integrated sensors business was born on 6 June 2017. That day, our support team received a request from the Fallen American MIA Repatriation Foundation for consultation on how to plan a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) mission for a UAV, with the aim of finding a lost aircraft buried in Greenland’s glacier. At that time, I did not even know what ground-penetrating radar was. Thus, to my surprise I found myself in Greenland – and our company got a new business line.
After the success of the Greenland expedition, we started to receive dozens of requests for GPR and subsurface search. From potential customers, we learned about dozens of possible applications – bathymetry, utilities and archaeology. And since then, we have through our own work learned about and created better ways to search between the surface using UAVs and various sensors.
In Greenland, we used a low-frequency GPR system with very high penetration, but most of the requests we have had are for shallow scanning a few metres underground and for relatively small objects. So, we began by integrating a 500MHz GPR system with a UAV.