Israeli startup sires autonomous drone for harsh industrial settings

Using machine vision and AI, Percepto’s ‘Sparrow I’ serves as safety inspector for refineries, power plants, ports

Israeli startup Percepto's Sparrow I drone system: the base station (Courtesy)
Israeli startup Percepto's Sparrow I drone system: the base station (Courtesy)

The new safety inspector is a robot, and it can fly.

The Modiin-based startup Percepto has just unveiled “Sparrow I,” an autonomous drone designed for aerial monitoring of complex industrial centers and environments where security is imperative, such as oil and gas refineries, power plants, shipping ports and sea terminals.

Making use of machine vision and artificial intelligence, Percepto — specializing in on-site autonomous drone systems — hopes to market a product that can reduce costs for companies, including the need for on-site human pilots and operators.

“Sparrow I was designed specifically to operate in harsh industrial environments, a rarity in today’s drone landscape,” said Percepto CEO and co-founder Dor Abuhasira in a statement.

Percepto has unveiled its Sparrow I drone for tough industrial settings with high security requirements (Courtesy)

“Our goal was to make Sparrow I as useful as possible for our customers, providing them with an easy way to increase efficiency, minimize unexpected downtime and reduce risks to personnel. To achieve this goal, we developed Sparrow I to include permanent mounted sensors and a rechargeable battery, removing the need for any human intervention,” he said.

This robot monitor will act autonomously, Percepto said, collecting data, analyzing it and transmitting “highly accurate and actionable information” to the customer when necessary.

 The Sparrow I system is set up to be stationed on-site, in a “base unit” where it lands, recharges, and transfers data it has acquired from its flights. The base also conducts maintenance checks on the functioning of the drone, verifying if repairs are needed. Sparrow I drones will weigh approximately 8.5 kilograms (19 lbs), will be able to stay in the air for 40 minutes at a time carrying payloads of up to 2 kilograms (4.5 lbs) and will be equipped with two rechargeable cameras, capable of working day or night.

The team of Modiin based startup Percepto (Courtesy)

Israel is rapidly becoming a world center for drone export, research and development. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel has been responsible for more than 60 percent of drone exports worldwide since 1985. However, Business Insider reported that in 2016 Israeli startups made up less than 1% of the $1.1 billion global investment in commercial drone startups. The Israeli drone startup market is expanding, however, including companies like UrbanAero, FlyTrex, Dronomy, AiRobotics and Parazero.

Founded in 2013 by Abuhasira, Raviv Raz and Sagi Blonder, Percepto has received backing from US billionaire Mark Cuban, Chinese angel investor Xu Xiapong and Richard Parsons, formerly of Citibank and TimeWarner.

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