Interactive Aerial takes flight — inside

Friends create drones to explore dangerous confines

Interactive Aerial takes flight -- inside

Record-Eagle/Dan Nielsen

Chris Schmidt, left, and Pierce Thomas collaborate on their second-generation drone design at Interactive Aerial.

Editor’s note: This story was published in the Record-Eagle’s Momentum ’16 special publication. For more stories from northern Michigan’s economic engine, see Sunday’s newspaper for a copy of Momentum, or click here to read Momentum in its entirety online.

by Bill O’Brien

TRAVERSE CITY — Most college students have enough on their plate keeping up with their studies, enjoying their youth and planning their careers.

But four friends who came together during their college years to form Interactive Aerial in Traverse City have much bigger ambitions, and are using their aviation knowledge and skills to create a new and hopefully profitable application for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology.

Interactive Aerial is on the cusp of manufacturing a new level of UAVs — often referred to as drones — for use in the petroleum and chemical sectors that can provide visual inspections and record data on facilities like fuel storage tanks, chemical storage facilities and related areas. Those are zones that can be problematic and even dangerous for manual inspections. The company is building its own specialized UAV units that can be utilized indoors, underground and in other areas where low or no-light environments or places blocked from GPS readings limit the effectiveness of standard drones.

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