Large factories, mines and infrastructure facilities need continuous monitoring to identify problems and other issues. Today, most of this is done by people – but the Israeli startup Percepto wants to replace them with drones and robots.
Percepto developed a drone for autonomous remote inspection of infrastructure. It comes inside a container, flies out from inside it on its own and then begins its tour. The drone has a flight time of 40 minutes and a range of 7 kilometers, and using cameras, thermal imaging and sensors it can identify problems with machinery, faulty infrastructure, leaks, problems with solar panels and other anomalies or potential dangers. The data is collected and analyzed and then presented to the drone’s operators using the company’s proprietary software.
On Tuesday, Percepto announced it had raised $45 million in a B round, led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), the venture capital investment arm of Koch Industries. At the same time, the company announced the launch of a new product: A system for monitoring a fleet of autonomous robots, which it calls AIM: Autonomous Inspection and Monitoring. The system provides a solution for operating robots alongside drones in industrial sites, and manages the robots to monitor and inspect infrastructure without human involvement, said the company. The area they are tasked to inspect is marked on a map and the AIM platform takes command and sends the most appropriate robot for the mission – in terms of its location and functionality.
Percepto also announced it is collaborating with robotics firm Boston Dynamics and its Spot mobile robot. Percepto will offer its clients the dog-like Spot alongside its own drones. Spot has advanced navigation and mobility capabilities over all sorts of terrain. Percepto will buy the Spot robots from Boston Dynamics and integrate its own software, sensors and cameras with it. Later other robotic systems will be added to the project, so the entire monitoring process can be conducted using aerial, ground and even marine robots – on Percepto’s platform.
The use of autonomous drones for security and monitoring is growing all over the world, both because of the improved technology and because of the relative regulatory openness involved in Europe and the United States. But it also creates a competitive environment for Percepto – and it has a number of rivals today, such as Israeli firm Airobotics, or Azur from France.
“We are the leaders in this market,” CEO Dor Abuhasira Abuhasira told TheMarker.
Percepto has the most installations in the world in the industry, dozens of sites with the company’s autonomous drones around the world – including power plants, gas facilities and mines, mostly in the United States and Australia, he said. Among the customers are Israel Chemicals, Verizon, Delek U.S. and a major power utility in Florida.
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Tech giants Google and Amazon are also developing their own autonomous drones – but for now they are focusing on deliveries, and as far as is known they still have no plans to enter the industrial monitoring sector.
Percepto was founded in 2014 by Abuhasira, CTO Sagi Blonder, chief engineering officer Raviv Raz and chief commercial officer Ariel Avitan. Originally the company developed technological components for drones, but later switched to the industrial monitoring business. The firm has 80 employees, most of them in Israel. It has offices in Israel in Modi’in, and in Australia and the United States.
Percepto’s business model is based on Software as a Service (SaaS) for the software-based management system, as well as the sale or lease of the robots and drones. Because Percepto also makes some of the hardware, and develops and manufactures the drones, too, in its factory in Israel – it is forced to deal with the costs related to manufacturing, operation, maintenance and repairs, etc. Abuhasira said manufacturing and selling hardware has a certain level of complications, but the difficulty in supplying hardware is less when it comes to large contracts with large customers – as opposed to mass production aimed at consumers.
Abuhasira declined to reveal the company’s revenues but said they were “significant” and while Percepto was still not profitable, it was “closer to profitability than it was last year.”
Investors from previous funding rounds participated in the present one too: Arkin Holdings, Spider Capital and U.S. Venture Partners. New investors include: State of Mind Ventures, Atento Capital, Summit Peak Investments and Delek US. Including the latest round, the company has raised a total of $72.5 million since it was founded.