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Cartersville company takes lead in deployment of unmanned aerials

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Executives at Phoenix Air Unmanned in Cartersville realized several years ago that the use of unmanned aerial units, drones, was becoming big and made the intentional effort to become a major player in use of the technology. However Greg Roper at Phoenix suggests folks don’t call them drones. “Drones have missiles, we don’t,” Roper told Adairsville business leaders at a Carters­ville-Bartow County Chamber-sponsored breakfast Thursday.

Roper prefers to call them “Unmanned aerial systems” or UAS for short.

Phoenix has partnered with a New Zealand-based UAS manufacturer and has developed a facility off Paga Mine Road just south of Cartersville.

Roper said Phoenix has UAS devices that range from $40,000 to nearly $85,000 before the first camera equipment is ever attached to the aircraft.

“Phoenix Air looks at the different capabilities of these aircraft, and they want to buy the best in the class,” Roper said.

One of the Phoenix employees has operated the unmanned aircraft in at least six movies, from “Dirty Grandpa” to “Fundamentals of Caring,” “Insurgent” and “Allegiant.”

Aerial inspection of utility equipment is probably the largest single use of the Phoenix aircraft equipment across the country.

“If it’s dirty, dull or dangerous, it’s a good idea to look at it through an unmanned aerial system,” Roper said. The company also uses thermal imaging to investigate hot spots where things may have already become problems. “We’re very capable for very high-resolution photography,” Roper said. Ultraviolet corona cameras are also used in the inspection process.

Phoenix has also partnered with the University of North Dakota to do some work on beyond visual line-of-sight flight utility line inspections in Texas.

Roper said some of the applications related to surveying and cartography are able to accomplish mapping in two days that would take ground-based personnel about three weeks to perform.