Bay Area Startup Snags $1.2M in Seed Funding to Develop a Precision Drone System with Centimeter-Level Accuracy for Infrastructure Inspection
San Carlos, Calif. - August 26, 2015 - Bay area startup, PRENAV (www.prenav.com), releases Hello World video announcing its commercial drone system that is so precise it can write letters and draw shapes in the sky. The level of control displayed is not possible with GPS and has only been seen in controlled environments like research labs with expensive motion capture systems.
The Hello World video highlights the system's precision by leveraging LED lights on the drone and turning them on/off at specific pre-mapped locations, drawing shapes and letters in the sky. A long exposure photo captures each location the drone visits, and is grouped with other photo frames to create animations and messages.
While the video shows off a playful and artistic display of aerial precision, the navigation capabilities of the PRENAV system are critical in commercial use cases like industrial inspection, where drones need to fly in close proximity to tall structures like cell towers and wind turbines. PRENAV is currently working with customers including wireless carriers, cell tower owners, service providers, and wind turbine operators. An early customer, Senvion, provides operation and maintenance services for nearly 1,000 wind turbines across North America:
"We are looking forward to integrating PRENAV's technology into our day to day service cycle in order to increase our efficiency and provide our customers with less downtime," said Hardy Steinacker, Head of Service, Americas for Senvion Canada Inc. "PRENAV's automated system not only captures the imagery, but also processes and distributes it for further analysis to our technicians below. With cost saving opportunities, reduction in safety risks and additional turbine up-time, securing production and revenue for our owners, Senvion, is looking to extend its blade inspection program by utilizing PRENAV's technology."
PRENAV has developed a patent-pending navigation system that consists of a guidance robot on the ground and an aerial robot (drone) working in coordination to fly close to structures. The guidance robot first scans the environment, then once flight begins, it tracks and shares position updates with the drone, keeping it on course even when dealing with wind and other disturbances. The system is operated via an intuitive touchscreen interface and requires no manual piloting skills, which makes it accessible to climbers, technicians, and anyone who is inspecting or maintaining industrial assets.
"Our customers need high quality imagery and 3D reconstructions to make decisions about the assets they're managing," says Nathan Schuett, CEO of PRENAV. "The current generation of drones struggle when they need to fly close to structures due to limitations of GPS and collision avoidance sensors. As a result, infrastructure inspection is a very difficult task even for the most highly-trained pilots. Our technology automates the entire mission, ensuring that the right photos are taken every time, and that an accurate 3D reconstruction is built and delivered to our customers."
Product launch is slated for 2016. Early funding for the company came from Pejman Mar Ventures, Toivo Annus, Drone.VC, Michael Antonov, and others.
PRENAV is developing an automated system to capture data about the world's infrastructure using small aerial robots. Navigating along pre-defined, repeatable flight paths, PRENAV's drones take photographs from precise locations in close proximity to structures to build accurate 3D reconstructions of industrial assets. The system consists of a commercial drone, a guidance robot on the ground, and software to plan the mission and analyze the data. With an initial focus on cell towers, wind turbines, and other tall structures, PRENAV enables customers to inspect nuts, bolts, serial numbers, cabling, and damaged areas, as well as take measurements of key components. The company is based in San Carlos, CA in the heart of Silicon Valley.