If you happen to use drones, chances are that you understand firsthand the lack of communication there is between the drone and the remote control. How many times has the pressure gauge shot up mid-flight? Now imagine if that happens while a drone is carrying expensive photography equipment or is being used for mapping, or saving lives. A new Israeli startup wants to help drone operators land their drones safely, even when communication has failed.
Making drones autonomous at the most crucial point
Wonder Robotics has developed a system that allows commercial drones to land safely autonomously, even in cases where the operator has lost their connection with the drone. The company's product, WonderLand, can be installed in any commercial drone and identifies the most suitable area for landing even without a pilot.
Wonder Robotics' system combines several image processing methods. It uses two-dimensional vision to produce high-altitude field orientation and three-dimensional vision for analyzing obstacles and low-altitude landing sites. “We combine several types of sensors, in the line of sight and others. In the final landing phase, we use algorithms that allow a third party to observe the platform's behaviour in extreme situations," explained Idan Shimon, co-founder and CEO of Wonder Robotics, in a conversation with us.
He added that the company has invested in optimizing the system to improve the carrying capacity, battery life, and graphic processing of the drones. Shimon added that "the product does not require dependence on communication or cloud connectivity and is very efficient in processing information in real-time. Today, we need to provide a complete solution for installation on the drone including processing capability. We are seeing that our customers, both service providers and platform manufacturers, are already installing processing capabilities that meet our system needs."
According to Shimon, the autonomy that the system provides to drones is the key to solving two important problems in the field: reducing the number of people needed to operate and monitor drones by improving their safety and reducing the regulation of drones in urban areas - where there is a greater need and commercial viability.
Shimon said that what sets the company apart from its competitors, including giant companies like DJI, is that it does not rely solely on AI algorithms. Regulation is much more difficult with AI-based systems only because they are not always predictable, which can lead to difficulties. We try to just combine AI with safety aspects, classic image processing, and 3D algorithms. AI is required as an additional layer, not the only layer."
Recently, one of the most prominent drone companies in Israel (Aerobotics) sold. Aside from them, we tend to not see too many flourishing drone companies in the ecosystem. Do you think there is an opportunity to open the floodgates for the development of software and service for drones in Israel?
"Israel is definitely a crowded market in the field of drones and there have yet to be many success stories. On the other hand, if you look at the field of computer vision and autonomous vehicles, it is successful in Israel. We believe that the drone market has already begun to expand; we see it in the U.S. for shipping purposes and we also believe UAM (Urban Air Mobility) will take off soon. There will be lots of related activity in Israel and globally in this regard, and it is closer than you think. With such uses, the technology will need high-level sensing capabilities and we believe that is where we will thrive.”
Out of stealth with an investment
Yesterday (Monday) Wonder Robotics launched out of stealth with $4 million in seed funding. The round was led by the Elron Ventures Fund and included participation from the Besadno Group.