AeroVision Canada is betting its UAV technology will be a hit with the natural resources industry
Trevor Bergmann’s ‘aha’ moment came when he was introduced to drones in 2012.
He’s always loved aviation. Growing up in Calgary he got his private pilot’s licence while he was still in high school. But then a friend showed him the concept of mounting a sensor to a radio-controlled multirotor, an unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly known as a drone, and the entrepreneurial wheels inside Bergmann’s head starting turning. “I thought there might be something more to be done with this than just flying it around,” Bergmann says.
That ‘something else’ has turned out to be Nova Scotia-based AeroVision Canada, a company Bergmann founded in 2013 that uses drones to inspect infrastructure, conduct surveys and mapping and do modelling. The small business has come a long way in just over four years. The company was named the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business of the Year in January and has worked on offshore oil infrastructure inspection, power grid inspection, wind turbine inspection, inspection of Department of National Defence assets and more.
I knew the potential was there. But could I make a living off of this as a sole proprietor and could it be self-sustaining?
Trevor Bergmann, CEO, AeroVision Canada
Bergmann says when he started the business, his goal was modest. “I knew the potential was there. But could I make a living off of this as a sole proprietor and could it be self-sustaining?”
It was an important question to answer. With the help of his mentor Jeff White, a Halifax-based entrepreneur who owns the Kula Partners marketing firm, he honed his business plan and launched the business. AeroVision’s first major project was in 2015 when it used drones to inspect City Hall in Halifax. “It was a great opportunity but nervewracking as well,” Bergmann says. “We got it done with no hiccups. It showed we could manage a complex flight.”
Drones are gaining traction as an inspection tool in the oil and gas, power and renewable energy sectors because they are smaller and cheaper to use than manned aircraft while still taking high quality images and recording data that can alert operators to damage or problem areas to their infrastructure. “Instead of sending people into confined spaces in dangerous locations, we can do it for them with the drones,” he says.
AeroVision’s drone technology has certainly caught the attention of wind farm operators. A big focus for the company has been wind turbine inspection, using drones to spot damage to these assets that allows operators to repair them quickly. “Early on we developed some good relationships with the renewable people on the operations side and technology developers,” Bergmann says. “Through an audition process we were able to show what we can do.”
Bergmann says about 60 per cent of the company’s work is currently with the renewable energy sector, another 30 per cent consists of oil and gas and on-land infrastructure work, and the remaining 10 per cent is training people on becoming pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Bergmann has slowly grown the company since he founded it. He brought on Jean Racine as the company’s chief operating officer in 2015, and Blair MacDougall as its engineering and business management advisor in 2016. MacDougall is the president of Waterford Energy Services Inc. and Waterford Subsea Inc. He’s been involved in the energy industry for over 20 years and worked with companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Marathon and Devon during his career. AeroVision has two other full-time staff.
It’s also opening new offices in St. John’s and southern Ontario, and Bergmann has his sights set on entering the U.S. market in 2018.. He says his revenue target for 2018 is to reach the seven-figure range. “I believe we can do that with the current work we have and the work scoped out with potential clients,” he says.
But reaching that goal, and other revenue goals in the future, will require the company to continue to build its client base, not slip on its standards and customer service, and stay on top of drone technology so AeroVision continues to provide the most efficient and effective products to the marketplace. “I’m thrilled with where we are but technology in this business moves so fast, every time you blink, it’s more advanced,” Bergmann says. “You always have to be ready for what you think you want to do down the road.”