The Drones Have Taken Off: Our Investment in Kespry, a Leading Industrial Aerial Intelligence Platform - Cisco Investments
 

Drones have had a very eventful 2017. Drones not only gained widespread commercial traction this year but came in the public spotlight during the devastating Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. For the first time, video from drones was widely shown to provide real time coverage of these natural disasters. Drones were also used by insurance companies to assess damages. Overnight, drones became a mainstream technology. Kespry led the charge from the front!

Based in Menlo Park, California, Kespry is a leading provider of drone-based aerial intelligence for insurance, mining, aggregates, construction and energy industries. The company’s drones were used in several rescue and recovery operations in the aftermath of the two recent natural disasters – further supporting our team’s view that Kespry will emerge as a market leader in the crowded drone ecosystem.

From Sentinels to Sensors and Surveyors

Military all over the world pioneered the use of drones (and more broadly the class of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in the last decade. Drones have since evolved beyond their military roots and emerged as the new sensor network. Recent advances in cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies have amplified the impact that drone intelligence can bring to businesses.

Enterprises are adopting drones for efficiency, cost reduction and safety in their field operations. According to Farmers Insurance for example, a drone can help a claims adjuster process three houses per hour. Before using a drone, the adjuster could only cover three houses per day. Not to mention, the injuries caused to adjusters due to falling off roofs!

Cisco Investments Seizes the Drone Opportunity

Drones are a fast-growing category of ‘connected assets’ and have the ability to radically transform service and field operations for many industrial markets. Investing in the drone ecosystem offers unique market insights to Cisco and allows us to further support our industrial customers in their adoption of IoT and their digital transformation journey. The Cisco Investments team has closely monitored the drone ecosystem for last several years and had identified a handful of drone startups that were led by best in class teams, backed by top VCs and were starting to show signs of industry adoption. For a long time though, government regulations for the drones industry were unclear and this was stalling broader commercial adoption of drones. Consequently, we decided to wait out the first wave of drone investments.

The release of Part 107 by FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) in June 2016 greatly helped in clarifying regulations for commercial drone flight operations and provided impetus for faster adoption of drones.

Kespry – the leading Industrial Drone Intelligence Platform

Kespry stands out because of its end-to-end solution consisting of its own drone, flight planning and mapping software, and analytics tools. What also sets the company apart is that its solution generates business insights, not just raw data, and the output is fully integrated from data collection in the field to accurate measurements, image classification, report generation and business decisions. Customers love the way the analytics tools are customized to their specific vertical, using AI and advanced image analysis techniques.

For example, in the mining industry, operators need accurate data on their mined inventory. The work, quite often involving climbing huge stockpiles, can be dangerous. Using existing surveying equipment for manual measurements, errors are often made and injuries are commonplace. In Kespry’s mining application, a perimeter is drawn around a mineral stockpile on an iPad screen. Click Go and the camera-mounted drone surveys the pile. The data is transmitted to the Kespry Cloud, where it is converted into 3D models using photogrammetry and AI. The Kespry analytics software instantly calculates the volume, cut, fill, tonnage, and other relevant operational metrics, becoming the single source of truth for site planning and inventory management.

Kespry_drone_capture

Mine Planning – A Drone-Camera View (Kespry image)

The Future

While drones will continue to get embedded more and more in industrial field operations, we believe that drone adoption will spread quickly to many other industries. Here is a short list of use cases and applications we are starting to see emerge:

  • Use of sensors such as infrared cameras for night vision, search and rescue, crop health assessment, pipeline inspection, leakage detection, and surveillance. In addition, LIDARs (Light Detection and Ranging) can be used for mapping areas obstructed by forest/ vegetation cover and other obstructions. LIDARs are better than photogrammetry for modeling narrow objects such as transmission lines, pipes, and roof edges.
  • Indoors: Flying a drone indoors is very challenging due to more obstacles in general and magnetic interference. The latter problem requires turning off a drone’s collision avoidance and visual positioning sensors. Solving this technology problem is critical to unlock the tremendous value that drones can bring in indoor environments such as warehouses, construction sites, manufacturing floor and power plants.
  • Flying beyond visual line of sight: Current FAA regulations require one human per drone coverage during flight and do not allow flying drones beyond the pilot’s line of sight. Waivers in the future would help grow the adoption of drones exponentially, as few human operators in the field can manage a swarm of drones to fly over miles of pipelines and transmission lines as well as acres of farm land and forest.

We are very excited about our investment in Kespry and look forward to working with the Kespry team to usher in an era of ubiquitous aerial intelligence for driving efficiencies in the industrial sector.

Contact: We would like to hear your perspective on the drone industry. To share your thoughts and for more information about our investment in Kespry, please email amchatur@cisco.com.

About the author: Amit Chaturvedy joined Cisco in 2014 and leads the global investment practice for Internet of Things (IoT). Prior to Cisco, Amit was at Summit Partners where he sourced and led investments in communications technology, financial services and consumer sectors in US, Europe and India. Previously, he was at Cummins Inc. where he designed software for diesel engines and led customer liaison activities for Daimler Chrysler Corporation. Amit also worked in the investment banking group at Citigroup, NY.

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