Tech Time: GM partners with Skypersonic, uses drones to keep assembly lines safe

Equipment inspections with drones is safer, faster and cheaper

DETROIT – One of the Big Three is partnering with a local drone company, using the aerial vehicles to help manufacture automobiles.

General Motors was deciding how to inspect their manufacturing equipment more safely for workers. The answer was drones.

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“We don’t want anything bad to happen to anybody, and this seemed like the best use of that type of technology for us,” said John Brown, manager for Reality Capture, General Motors.

The manufacturing equipment GM uses are massive and the company was looking for a way to avoid potential falls, so the Detroit automaker partnered with Skypersonic, a drone company founded in Detroit.

“You learn when you apply,” said Skypersonic CEO and founder Giuseppe Santangelo. “When your customer asks you, ‘Can we do this?’ And you say, ‘Maybe we can.’”

“They were able to understand our problems,” Brown said. “And we were able to see how quickly they were able to facilitate changes for us.”

The flying machines are used inside factories and go where people used to be -- which was in precarious positions. It’s safer, costs less and reduces assembly line downtime.

“When workers are off the floor -- maybe they’re having lunch or they’re off getting something to drink or eat during a break time -- we can get the drone up, look at something and get down and out of there before they come back,” Brown said.

GM’s use of the drones is expanding, allowing inspection of manufacturing outside too.

“If you look at any of our construction sites today, when we’re adding on to facilities and buildings and parking lots and roads, you’ll see drones out there doing construction inspection,” Brown said.

Skypersonic was founded in Detroit. More information can be found on its official website here.

An extended version of this week’s Tech Time with Andrew Humphrey can be seen below.

About the Author:

Andrew Humphrey is an Emmy Award winning meteorologist, and also an AMS Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM). He has a BSE in Meteorology from the University of Michigan and an MS in Meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he wrote his thesis on "The Behavior of the Total Mass of the Atmosphere."