Developed in eighteen months by the start-up, Xamen Technologies, based in Pau (south western France), this drone is unique. Called the LE4-8X, it is the first UAV capable of being used in potentially explosive environments, and has just been ATEX certified (reversed French acronym : EXplosive ATmospheres). With this certification, the six kilogramme (13 lb.) machine can be operated as part of maintenance or diagnostic operations on oil platforms, chemical processing plants or oil refineries.
Philippe Barthomeuf, Chief Executive Officer, Xamen Technologies : « To enter potentially explosive areas, you first have to make sure that the machine does not produce sparks. Therefore to be able to do this, for instance in the event of an electrical part being cut through, the machine’s entire electrical and electronic parts are protected by the use of special wiring and materials to avoid any sparks or short circuit being produced. »
The drone is also equipped with an impact protective cage for the battery, eight wooden, propellers, so as not become charged with static electricity, as can happen with those in carbon, and the operating machine’s temperature does not exceed 100° C. (212° F). That is all we know for now, since, because it has only just been put onto the market, this first ATEX drone’s manufacturing secrets are kept well under wraps.
Philippe Barthomeuf, Chief Executive Officer, XAMEN Technologies : « The commercial model is either, to sell the machine, or a service. Where we have a customer who requests an inspection of their ATEX infrastructure, we'll rent them the machine with two radio control pilots - ATEX trained - which is absolutely imperative. »
Expect to pay about 10,000 euros per day of service, or around 100,000 euros to puchase. Still, for its users, this drone should reduce maintenance costs by ten. In early May, Xamen Technologies will present their product at the Atlanta AUVSI drone dedicated show in the US. A major US oil company, who intends testing the drone this summer in the UK, has already signed.