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A small Northern Territory company has won a multiyear services contract at the INPEX-operated Ichthys LNG onshore facilities on the outskirts of Darwin

Skymax was selected from a highly competitive list of mainly local competitors to win the tender to provide drones to inspect and survey equipment and infrastructure at the Bladin Point facilities.

Max Lye, a 25-year old born-and-bred Territorian, founded the Darwin-based company less than three years ago. He says the contract is a “massive achievement” for his business and recognition that the Territory has local top-class capabilities in unmanned aerial work.

Skymax’s enhanced stature has been acknowledged on the world stage – Max has been appointed to the board of directors of the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems, where he will sit alongside representatives from such corporations as Boeing.

“This is a great win for the Territory,” he says.

“I now have input into the latest technological and regulatory advances in the industry and that can only be of benefit to the Territory. I will be pushing the Territory’s economic interests as hard as I can.”

The Skymax multi-year contract is another example of INPEX being a good corporate citizen – awarding work to NT businesses whenever possible as part of its deep involvement in the community and desire to advance local capability.

Many Territory companies have benefited from winning work on Ichthys LNG, which employs about 500 workers directly and indirectly.

Skymax carried out drone inspection work for INPEX for about 18 months before winning the tender.

“We proved that we could do the work to the highest standards – delivering solutions to a range of complex problems using the latest drone technologies. We’d built up a good reputation, so we sharpened our pencils and went for the tender.

“There’s a lot of prestige in this work. It shows we have proven ourselves to operate at the highest level in the oil and gas industry.

“We’ve gone from completing minor ad-hoc scopes of work to a multiyear services contract – and we’re delighted with this outcome.”

INPEX Onshore Implementation Manager Mark Wilson says the use of drone technology minimises the need for INPEX and its contractors to work at heights for maintenance inspections.

“The drone technology is innovating how we work and making it safer for our people. We are pleased to partner with a local Darwin business on this contract,” he says.

Skymax also works with mining companies, including Glencore’s McArthur River Mine near Borroloola and South32’s manganese mine on Groote Eylandt.

Max went to St Paul’s Primary School and O’Loughlin College before moving to South Australia to gain his commercial pilot’s licence and gain work experience. He said he always knew he would return home to the Territory.

“I remember watching videos of drones being used and identified a need for them in the NT.

“I started from humble beginnings and I’m surprised at how quickly our business has grown”

Max praises his team.

“They have been working extremely hard to deliver such great outcomes for our clients,” he says. “We only employ Territorians and have invested significant time and resources to train and upskill our workforce to support these activities.”

Skymax, which employs 14 fulltime, part-time and casual staff, has dozens of top-of-the-range drones.

“To remain competitive, we have to keep up the latest technological advances. Our equipment must be the latest and greatest.”

Skymax hasn’t got all its eggs in one basket – it is also the repair, maintenance and supply business for a range of products, and is the No 1 Territory dealer for DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer. And the company supports the Police, Fire and Emergency Services personnel in the use of its drones.