SLS Land & Energy Development, a surveying and engineering firm with offices in Charleston and Glenville, W.Va., has acquired the Buckhannon-based Global Drone Surveying & Inspections. 

“SLS and Global both possessed elite drone fleets capable of optical gas imaging, mapping, security and surveillance,” SLS President Sarah Smith said. “SLS has strong, regional relationships in the energy industry, and Global’s specialty was pipeline inspections. Joining forces made sense.”

The acquisition grows the SLS drone fleet to five aircraft. 

“I’m excited to join SLS,” said Joe Loudin, founder of Global and now project manager and certified drone pilot for SLS. “We’ve put together an amazing collection of top-notch drones, and it’s going to benefit the region’s growing oil and natural gas industry.” 

Loudin began his career in the drone industry after working for Mountain V Oil & Gas in Bridgeport. While working as supervisor there, he realized an easier and safer way to monitor pipelines. After conducting research, Loudin became trained and certified as a drone pilot. He formed Global in 2017 and began performing aerial inspections of pipelines for a variety of clients.

“With Joe’s field experience and SLS's surveying and data processing capabilities, the company is even more of a leader in drone technology throughout the region,” Smith said.

Since 1978, SLS has been providing the region’s most dependable surveying, core drilling, aerial mapping and environmental services – including aboveground storage tank inspections. In 2017, it unveiled its own drone fleet that allowed companies to boost safety and efficiency for operations throughout the region.

The collection of drones includes a sleek, lightweight, durable OGI system equipped with a top-of-the-line camera and sensors that deliver high-definition images and collect spectral data. 

“It offers extended flight time, outstanding stability and durability,” Smith said. “This is cutting-edge technology for industries throughout the state, especially industries utilizing tanks and pipelines.” 

The drone can see gas and liquid, spotting leaks of all sizes. 

“It keeps workers and residents safe,” Loudin said. “And it’s cost-effective. That’s because it prompts preventative maintenance and minimizes risks. It allows businesses to exceed federal monitoring requirements. We’re offering a high level of safety and efficiency.”

The SLS mapping drones, meanwhile, deliver data directly to cloud-based storage. Those numbers create measurements, share annotations and compare maps with drawings and schedules. The 3D technology is deeper than laser-scanned images, offering a precise location for reconstructed space. 

“With Joe and his drones now part of the family, SLS is even better positioned to keep an eye on industries throughout the Mountain State and beyond,” Smith said. “We’re proud to play an important role in the state’s economy, and we’re excited to watch it grow.”

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