Percepto, a drone solutions company that previously raised capital from former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons and billionaire Mark Cuban, today announced that it’s secured $15 million in series A financing led by U.S. Venture Partners (USVP) Arkin Holdings, with participation from NHN, Spider Capital, Emerge, R&R Venture Partners, and strategic investor Hyundai. The cash infusion, which comes after seed rounds totaling $12.5 million, brings Percepto’s total raised to $27.5 million.
“This new investment in Percepto accelerates our rapid trajectory,” said CEO Dor Abuhasira. “We have the solution, talent, infrastructure and funding in place to scale our operations and further expand our international presence. It also enables us to continue at pace with our ground-breaking research and development.”
Percepto is the brainchild of Abuhasira and Raviv Raz, who were inspired to create the company’s first product — a quadcopter dubbed Sparrow I — after returning home from a snowboarding trip with disappointingly low-quality drone footage. Following a successful Indiegogo campaign, they took steps to commercialized their drone-in-a-box solution: a portable base station from which Sparrow I charges, launches, lands, syncs data with a cloud management system over LTE, and performs automated pre- and post-flight checks.
Sparrow I can be piloted on-demand or autonomously, and was designed with industries like energy, oil and gas, and mining in mind. Toward that end, it’s able to withstand heavy rain and snow and operate during day or night, and it can integrate with connected devices such as “smart fences” and motion detectors to respond to alerts.
The carbon fiber composite drone — which packs a rechargeable battery, a high-resolution RGB camera, and a thermal camera — weighs about 19 pounds and has a flight time of 38 minutes, and can fly up to three miles at speeds upwards of 46 miles per hour and at a maximum height of 400 feet. Percepto’s software leverages Sparrow I’s sensor data to track humans, vehicles, and anomalies in real time, and its orchestration dashboard enables drone pilots to define no-fly zones, free flight areas, and emergency landing zones within geofenced sites.
“The Percepto solution provides security teams with reliable, fully automated, round the clock aerial surveillance and because it is able to cover more ground faster, it is ideal for augmenting guarding patrols and perimeter intrusion detection systems,” added Abuhasira.
Sparrow I has rivals in H3dyanmics, Skysense, and Airbotics, which are similarly developing drone-in-a-box solutions, and it competes indirectly with DJI’s Mavic 2 Enterprise, a solution tailor-made for firefighting, law enforcement; emergency response, and inspection of powerlines, cell towers, and bridges. There’s also Paris-based Parrot’s recently announced Anafi Thermal, a camera-packing drone designed for rescuers, architects, and the energy industry.
But Percepto says that business is steady and claims it has Fortune 500 customers in more than countries, including Italian electricity and gas distributor Enel, which recently deployed Sparrow I drones at its Torrevaldaliga Nord power to “support operation and maintenance activities.” The company also says it’s participated in an experimental urban warfare scenario program organized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Science and Technology Directorate and U.S. Army, which sought to test the Sparrow I’s suitability for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
“Percepto has impressive technology, the right go-to-market strategy and an excellent team,” said USVP partner Dafina Toncheva. “It has a proven ability to deliver to critical facilities and heavy industries, unparalleled access to aerial data and perception which unlocks huge commercial value, whilst lowering costs and mitigating risk.”
Companies like AT&T use drones for maintenance inspections and to assist in natural disaster zones, and dozens of local government agencies, like the San Diego Fire Department (SDFD), have begun actively deploying drones as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) unmanned aerial systems integration pilot program. In May, the FAA chose 10 winners from a pool of more than 160 applicants interested in reimagining how drones can be used by governments and private industry. Meanwhile, telepresence drone piloting company Cape and others in the industry have begun to partner with first responders like the Chula Vista Police Department and San Diego Fire Department for field tests.
Reports show that the commercial drone industry is continuing to grow quickly, albeit from a small base. A 2017 forecast from Gartner projected the number of commercial drones sold that year would exceed 174,000. Moreover, about $454 million was thrown at UAV startups in 2016 alone, and the market is forecast to become a $127 billion industry by 2020.