OTTAWA — Jesse James Bohrer, of Ottawa, never imagined his passion for technology would ultimately lead to a business.
It was his interest in technology as a child that inspired him to start his first digital marketing company, where he used drones.
One day while watching his toddler daughter get a glass of water from the tap, he stumbled upon the idea to create technology that would add value to water infrastructure and make the industry more cost efficient.
It was that idea that led him to establish Semi-Automated Machine Intelligence, a company that uses semi-automated aquatic drones to inspect water towers.
Water towers need to be inspected, usually by scuba divers who spend about a month doing so. Drones can capture the same information in a much shorter time period, Bohrer said.
The aquatic drones, which capture 4K video, are placed into the tanks. With the help of an operator, the drones survey the area, conduct sonar tests and collect sediment for city water operators.
The provided sediment samples are either examined in that water department’s lab or sent out to be tested.
If the sediment sample is found to be toxic, SAMI’s Deep Trekker drone can vacuum the sediment for removal.
What makes this drone unique is that it has lateral thrusters and can obtain neutral buoyancy like a diver.
“You don’t want a drone that thrusts up and down because if the sediment at the bottom is shot up through the water, the tank will be contaminated with dirty water,” he said.
The drone’s cameras can transmit to the computer of the water treatment plant operator, who can oversee the process and be sure all areas are inspected. Exact measurements can be taken of problem areas, and a diver can then be hired to do patching or other repair.
“We’re not really taking away from the industry. We are just providing frequent maintenance,” said Bohrer.
Bohrer believes his new business has already made a direct impact on the community because the water department has had a 10 percent cost savings, workers have more time due to less frequent meetings with the EPA, and the drones are able to provide better data.
“We are adding jobs which is really cool especially in a community where people are losing jobs,” said Bohrer.
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews