Industrial drone startup Iris Automation nabs $1.5 mln

The future for autonomous industrial drones is in sight - Enabling safer drone operation through intelligent collision avoidance. We are a Y Combinator and Silicon Valley investor company with a team from NASA, Boeing and PhDs in computer vision; Copyright Iris Automation Inc.

Vancouver, British Columbia and San Francisco-based Iris Automation Inc, an industrial drone startup, has secured US$1.5 million in funding. The investors included Social Capital, GGV, Bee Partners and Liquid 2. Founded in 2015, Iris Automation is a recent graduate of the Y­Combinator startup accelerator program.


Iris Automation Raises US $1.5 Million Series-A Financing To Develop Collision Avoidance Systems for Drones

San Francisco ­ January 18th, 2017: Iris Automation, a recent graduate of the Y­Combinator startup accelerator program, today announced that it has raised $1.5 million USD to commercialize a Sense & Avoid system that will unlock the industrial drone industry by allowing the drones to finally fly autonomously. The system provides real­time situational awareness using computer vision and deep learning, allowing the drones to avoid collision in­flight. The company is backed by notable investors including Social Capital, GGV, Bee Partners, Liquid 2, Kevin Moore, and Paul Buchheit. Iris Automation has also launched its early adopter program for selected companies (our website link here), allowing them to gain early access to the technology before it reaches the open market.

“We are delighted to have raised this round from leading investors in the drone space. We’re using this investment to accelerate product development, scale the early adopters program, and make completely autonomous and Beyond­Visual­Line­of­Sight drone operation a reality”Alexander Harmsen, CEO Iris Automation.

The Iris system uses a camera and computer vision algorithms to track moving objects (such as aircraft) to avoid air­to­air collisions and create an accurate 3D reconstruction of the world in real­time as the drone flies, without any previous knowledge of the environment. The system is built to a specific form factor with weight, size, and power limitations, and is designed to meet reliability standards, which accompany industrial applications in the aircraft industry.

“With a range of over 1500ft, our system is 50x more powerful than the “bumper solutions” that some current drone companies are using today with a mere 30ft detection range. Furthermore, the product is a stand alone unit, agnostic to all platforms and can be integrated into any commercial drone in the world.” ­ Alejandro Galindo, Head of R&D.

“For many companies, industrial drone operations would not be economically viable without the ability to fly autonomously and Beyond­Visual­Line­of­Sight (BVLOS). Pipeline inspection, package delivery, large agribusinesses, and mining exploration are examples where BVLOS operations are needed and where Iris’ Sense & Avoid system would be crucial in enabling true autonomy” ­ Hassan Bhatti, Head of Growth & Partnerships.

Regulators also believe that Sense & Avoid technology is critical in in the deconfliction of manned and unmanned aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration’s new UAV rules (commonly referred to as Part 107) includes a waiver process for BVLOS flights. This waiver process has been created to allow drone companies to trial new technologies, for the FAA to evaluate new rules and to provide an avenue for certain operators to fly BVLOS. The Iris Early Adopter Program is an opportunity for drone companies to apply for BVLOS operations through the waiver process by using the Iris System before it is commercially available.

Iris Automation is leading the charge on the use of technology to enable safer drone operations and is looking for partners in the UAV and drone space that believe in the same vision to work with through its early adopter program. If your company is looking to be the first one to have a fleet equipped with BVLOS capabilities, please sign up here (link).

About Iris Automation:
Iris Automation is a Y­Combinator and Silicon Valley investor backed company with a team of 9 from NASA, Boeing, and Airbus, amongst others, and includes PhDs in computer vision. Iris is tackling three big challenges facing the industrial drone industry: reliability, safety and autonomous flight beyond line of sight. Currently, industrial drone systems are not trusted to fly beyond­line­of­sight or be completely autonomous; Iris is changing that by giving them the ability to intelligently see and react to the physical world by building a collision avoidance system. The product is a sophisticated computer vision algorithm packaged into a physical, plug­and­play perception unit which is being sold directly to drone manufacturers and adds tremendous value to their systems as it enables them to overcome regulatory, insurance, trust and safety issues.

About the Technology:
The technology used is a combination of computer vision and deep learning algorithms that allow the drone to be able to see the world similar to the way a human pilot does. Interleaving basic deterministic algorithms with more advanced, non­deterministic algorithms and neural networks allows the system is be fault tolerant and also carry the incredible intelligence onboard. There is a lot of overlap with autonomous driving technology, as situational awareness is key for any autonomous vehicle, regardless of whether they are land, sea or air based.

Source: Iris Automation

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