Drone manufacturer Percepto announced this week it had raised $45 million for its autonomous inspection solution. The company is known for designing Sparrow, a drone that can carry out its missions completely autonomously.
Equipped with visual sensors, Sparrow is able to collect data, then transmit and analyze it on its software platform AIM. Now Percepto’s AIM platform can also integrate with other robotic solutions such as Boston Dynamics‘ four-legged robot Spot. We spoke with CEO Dor Abuhasira.
Autonomous drone maker Percepto announced this week it had secured $45 million in investment from industrial leader Koch Industries. Venture Partners, Spider Capital and State of Mind Ventures also contributed to the round. The start-up has raised a total of $72.5 million since it was founded in 2013. Percepto’s CEO, Dor Abuhasira told us:
“We have the ambition to be the market leader for autonomous drone-based solutions.”
A Drone Without a Pilot
Founded in Israel in 2013, Percepto is particularly known for its drone-in-a-box solution. Sparrow can perform scheduled or on-demand inspection missions autonomously without the help of an operator. Once deployed, the drone is completely autonomous and can fly for about 38 minutes and up to a 2 or 3-mile radiance before flying back to its box to recharge.
“We are solving the operator problem. When you need an operator to fly a drone, you fly the drone less, you launch fewer inspections. When the drone is autonomous, it becomes part of your site routines and you then get data in a much easier and more consistent way.”
Equipped with a 4K daylight camera and a thermal imaging camera, Sparrow is able to collect a wide range of data, then transmit it and analyze it through Percepto’s software platform AIM (Autonomous Inspection & Monitoring). Because Percepto is not just a drone manufacturer, the company also offers an end-to-end solution, explained Mr. Abuhasira.
“We offer an end-to-end solution based on a drone and software to use the data collected to drive relevant insights. To put it in a nutshell, our autonomous system is: autonomous drone, data collection, data analysis and report, all driven by AI.”
The system is quite simple. The client sets up the drone once, schedules inspection routines, for example, once a week, and the drone will perform the task autonomously, send reports with indications on events taking place, maintenance to be made, experts to send on the ground, etc.
“I can also launch the drone whenever I want and have real-time data. And I can control a drone that’s in the US from my office in Tel Aviv, have it inspect an area in the US and send me its report. Not only is the frequency of inspections higher, but our system also enables us to collect data in a periodic and consistent way and tells you where your experts need to intervene in case the drone detects an anomaly.”
Percepo is already working with heavy industries in the oil & gas, mining and energy sectors which demand frequent remote inspection operations and monitoring routines. Their solution is already being used in the US, Canada and Australia.
Partnership with Boston Dynamics’ Spot
Up until recently, Percepto’s AIM platform only worked with Sparrow. But this week’s announcement confirms their solution can work with third-party tools, robots or drones from other manufacturers. Boston Dynamics’ Spot can now be controlled via the AIM platform. It can move on the ground while being equipped with sensors developed by Percepto and also work in collaboration with Sparrow.
“This means that facilities can now use our Sparrow drone and our AIM system with Spot if they want indoor inspections. So we are enabling more data to be collected and we are still offering one unique system to analyze that data and turn it into valuable insights.”
This new solution is particularly useful for the mining industry, he explained:
“You can see most of the data of a site from the air with a drone. But for the indoor areas, a ground robot offers another perspective. Spot can climb stairs, have closer shots of an asset and get to areas a drone could not get to. So Spot and Sparrow are complementary in this case.”
In a statement, Michael Perry, VP of Business Development at Boston Dynamics said:
“Combining Percepto’s Sparrow drone with Spot creates a unique solution for remote inspection. This partnership demonstrates the value of harnessing robotic collaborations and the insurmountable benefits to worker safety and cost savings that robotics can bring to industries that involve hazardous or remote work.”
Percepto’s solution is available through a yearly subscription including the software and the drone.
The company currently has a staff of 80 people but expects to double this figure in 2021.