Exodigo looks to map what’s underground on Earth, with eyes set on Mars

Israeli startup develops AI-powered tech to create 3D digital maps to detect potential hazards beneath the surface, using sensors carried by drones or small carts

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

Israeli startup Exodigo uses drone sensors to create 3D digital maps of underground terrain. (Courtesy)
Israeli startup Exodigo uses drone sensors to create 3D digital maps of underground terrain. (Courtesy)

An Israeli startup has set its sights low, with AI-powered technology that peers beneath the surface to help construction companies mitigate the risk of unnecessary excavation and environmental damage costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Founded in 2021 by a trio of Israeli army officers from the tech-savvy 8200 and 81 intelligence units, Exodigo has developed AI-powered technology to create 3D digital maps, which it says can scan the ground across any kind of terrain by using multiple sensors deployed by small carts and drones.

“Today, the camera that can see underground is a tractor and a drilling machine,” Jeremy Suard, co-founder and CEO of Exodigo, told The Times of Israel. “We are here to change that.”

Suard explained that current methods of underground mapping do deploy one or two kinds of sensors, but Exodigo is the first in the world to develop the software and AI that can merge different signals together into a single map of a site using algorithms to detect potential hazards, such as underground utilities, by locating pipes, cables, soil layers, rocks, minerals, and groundwater.

The idea behind Exodigo’s tech originated in the medical world. After spending eight years together in the Israeli army, Suard, a physicist, and two other founders trained in algorithms, AI and signal processing sought to develop software to combine the results of an MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound into one image. But they quickly realized that penetration into the medical world was challenging and slow.

“We can train our algorithms on everything that’s possible to be detected by physics and our vision is that we want to do mineral exploration on Mars with Elon Musk,” Suard said. “But right now, we are focused on the construction world.”

Musk’s rocket and satellite company SpaceX is aiming to use the Starship spacecraft to one day carry people and cargo to Mars.

Exodigo co-founder and CEO Jeremy Suard. (Courtesy)

“In our view any construction project in the world should map the underground before it’s done — even if it’s a small private project, even if it’s just your backyard,” he added.

In civil infrastructure projects such as building trains, hitting unexpected underground utilities such gas, water, and oil pipelines is one of the biggest reasons for major delays and exploded budgets. According to Exodigo estimates, more than $100 billion annually is spent on unnecessary excavation and drilling every year, to discover what’s underground for projects in construction or for the exploration of metals.

Exodigo has tailored its non-intrusive multi-sensing platform to help construction, mining and utility companies in the US and in Israel avoid splashing millions of dollars each year on exploratory digging and repairing accidental damages to pipelines. About $30 billion in costs result from damages to critical underground infrastructure each year in the US, according to a Common Ground Alliance analysis report.

Suard noted that his company’s technology has around seven commercial sensors to analyze all the physical properties of underground terrain such as electromagnetics, magnetics, radars, and seismic activity.

“We combine and integrate all of the sensors in one system that can be attached to a cart on the ground used more for areas inside the city, or mounted on a drone to be used in the air mainly for outside the city to cover bigger areas,” Suard said.

In February, Exodigo raised $29 million in seed funding for the launch of the subsurface mapping platform and the US rollout as well as support pilot projects in California, Florida and Texas. The funding round was led by investment firms Zeev Ventures,10D Ventures, SquarePeg Capital, and JIBE Ventures. Israeli construction companies Tidhar Construction and Israel Canada, and real estate company WXG Ltd., joined as strategic investors.

Since the official launch of the mapping platform in June, Exodigo has worked with more than 20 clients on large projects across the energy, utilities, and transportation sectors in the US, Europe, and Israel, the company said.

In recent months, the California Department of Transportation used the 3D imaging technology to detect utility lines for a project to extend a highway.

In October, Exodigo announced a multi-million dollar investment from National Grid Partners (NGP) following the “successful” deployment of its mapping platform at National Grid sites in New York, which discovered previously unknown utility lines. NGP is the venture investment arm of National Grid, one of the world’s largest utility companies with operations in the US and UK.

Talking about what’s next, Suard said that Exodigo will very soon be coming out with additional software for mapping soil composition of natural ground layers such as sand, clay, rocks, sinkholes or water level.

“It will add a ground layer picture within the same scan,” said Suard. “We already did some pilots for sinkholes.”

In recent months, Exodigo experts tested the mapping platform in Israel as sinkholes opened up on Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway — luckily with no injuries but causing traffic chaos.

“We helped decisionmakers at the site with an assessment so they can act to make sure that they were no other areas of concern around the sinkhole and that everything was covered, allowing the reopening of the highway within a couple of hours,” Suard said.

Suard said that he was very proud that Exodigo’s technology was recently selected among the 200 best innovations of 2022 by Time magazine.

“I think that we are not just another software or cloud or crypto company out there. We are trying to solve a major problem,” he said.

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