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Drone company that checks on oil safety raises $5.7M

A company specializing in using drones to inspect oil and gas rigs has raised $5.7 million in investment.

Sky-Futures raised $4.2 million from Bristow Group, and $1.5 million from MMC Ventures. The company delivers drone inspection services in the Gulf of Mexico, South East Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and the North Sea, working with companies including ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell and Statoil.

The latest investment is set to boost the development of Sky-Futures' technology platform. The London-headquartered company uses software that automates analysis of data gathered by drones, identifying problems on rigs and providing forecasts for corrosion.

"What we're doing is completely revolutionizing how people interact with their physical assets," James Harrison, co-founder and chief executive of Sky-Futures, told CNBC in a phone interview. "Now we have the drones flying around the assets," he added.

This contrasts with physically sending someone to an installation to take pictures for analysis. A cloud-hosted portal enables clients to access imagery and analysis.

"All that data comes back into our portal and we allow the engineers to look at thermal pictures, video pictures, high definition stills and also use analysis tools to actually do things such as measure a crack or sea corrosion change over time," Harrison said.

The use of drones in industry is becoming increasingly common. In January, a study by Juniper Research found that annual revenues from commercial sales are set to hit $481 million this year, an increase of 84 percent compared to 2015. The potential of drones is significant, with many applications – from postal services to the use of drones in farming – being investigated.

"Through our partnership, we will collaborate with Sky-Futures and its leading safety culture, operational integration, and analysis technology, to capitalize beyond the growing need for global UAV inspection services in oil and gas to other industries, including search and rescue," Bristow Group president and CEO Jonathan Baliff said in a news release.