Last week were taking place in Paris the finals of EIT Digital’s Cyber-Physical Systems Idea Challenge. Held at the newly refurbished Pierre & Marie Curie University, the event’s highlight was the finalists’ pitches, revealing interesting companies in the making.
Drones were on the agenda with French startup UAVIA disclosing a compelling drone-based monitoring service for industrial sites, breaking free of todays radio control limitations while supporting 24/7 drone surveillance as a cloud service.
The six month old startup buys drones and electronic parts (including sensors) to build custom GSM-enabled drones that can be remotely controlled through the GSM network using cloud-based applications. But this is only half of the equation, UAVIA offers to setup up a number of recharging drone stations across the industrial site to be monitored, so that the drones stay on site. The operators do not need to be within radio control range, that is, they could sit in any office instead of having to travel to remote industrial sites.
Co-founder and CEO Clment Christomanos boasted that they had proven the concept flying a drone in Paris while being in San Francisco, using an internet-connected laptop.
When a drone is low on batteries, it returns to the nearest charging station where it can land safely and self-centre itself mechanically within the charging station (thanks to a patented funnel-like connector setup).
The cloud operation comes with various aerial surveillance and inspection tools, making it possible for customers to collect and analyze aerial data from HD video in real time, from their desk. On the companys roadmap is more embedded vision capabilities for automated inspection routines which could see the drones operate without supervision, only sending alerts when detecting intrusions or set visual or topographical changes within the surveyed area.
The captured data is encrypted and uploaded to the companys cloud servers via the connected charging stations, and for remote locations that would not already have 3G/4G LTE coverage, UAVIA has struck a strategic partnership with Air-Lynx, a provider of private LTE networks, to offer a complete package.
“Radio control latency is only 100ms”, explained Christomanos, “instead of the typical 6 to 7 seconds latency you would get for satellite-controlled military drones”.
“The beauty of this, is that you could have any expert intervene to assess a live video feed. A qualified operator could even hand-over the camera control while maintaining the drone in a hovering mode”, commented Christomanos, “so you could share the video stream for closer inspection by third parties. This is typically not possible with today’s closed loop systems where only the operator gets the video feed” concluded the CEO.
UAVIA delivers the drone-surveillance as a cloud service, with a setup fee depending on the number of drones and charging stations followed by a 10k euros monthly fee per drone for a hassle-free 24/7 support, maintenance and access to the data analytics tools (this include operator training)
The startup has already secured several contracts with industrial partners which it couldnt name yet. It hopes to beat many of the alternative drone-based site surveillance and inspection companies on a market evaluated to circa 1.3 billion Euros for Europe alone.