The adoption of drones for commercial and industrial uses has skyrocketed as regulatory hurdles continue to ease, says Percepto, a Modiin-based startup that develops the vehicles for industrial applications.
“We are seeing tremendous growth in demand in the US and Europe compared with the last few years. The market has moved from showing interest to actual requests for proposals and contracts,” said Ariel Avitan, chief commercial officer of Percepto.
A drone is a small pilotless aircraft that is controlled via a remote or by a software application.
The Federal Aviation Administration has implemented the Small UAS rule, making it easier to obtain permits to fly drones in US airspace. The provision also grants waivers for operating at night and at above 121 meters, which were previously allowed only on a case-by-case basis.
The number of applications for the commercial use of drones has increased more than 20 times from 5,500 to 122,000 since the rule took effect in August 2016, according to data collected by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Israel is by far the largest exporter of military drones in the world, with nearly 60 percent of the market. Now companies have started using the technology in commercial and industrial applications — which created an opening for Percepto.
In December, Percepto unveiled its autonomous drone called Sparrow I, which uses machine learning to survey and inspect industrial sites without human intervention.
The company held a live demonstration last week of Sparrow I at a kibbutz 40 kilometers from Tel Aviv, showing a typical patrol exercise and the drone’s detection and tracking capabilities.
In the patrol, a simple push of a button from a desktop computer was used to launch the 8.5-kilogram aerial robot made of carbon fiber into the air.
Observers watched from the middle of a former baseball field as the drone took off from its launching base and flew 400 meters into the air in less than 15 seconds, circling around the kibbutz’s fence, an area of roughly 1,200 square meters.
The drone, which can move at a maximum speed of 75 kilometers per hour, took less five minutes to survey the fenced area of the kibbutz, after which it automatically landed and secured itself onto the landing pad. Its camera captured and transmitted an aerial video of the site as it flew around the perimeter of the kibbutz.
The entire flight was conducted without an operator, a feature that differentiates Percepto’s drone system from most others in the marketplace today, the company said.
A second mission demonstrated the drone’s detection and tracking capabilities, as observers watched the drone follow Raviv Raz, the company’s chief product officer, run across the kibbutz.
The drone identified Raz’s location and quickly followed and hovered in the air as he sprinted back and forth. Simultaneously, a video image was projected onto a desktop screen tracking his movement and exact location.
Although Avitan did not give the costs of installing a drone system, he noted that installation costs are a fraction of the millions of dollars companies spend each year in safety, security, and site maintenance.
Avitan confirmed that it has sales contracts from one of the top five oil and gas companies and one of top three security companies globally.
Founded in 2013 by CEO Dor Abuhasira, Raz and Sagi Blonder, Percepto has received backing from US billionaire Mark Cuban. The company currently has 25 employees.