PRENAV, a technology start-up based in California's Silicon Valley, says it has developed a commercial drone system that provides centimeter-level accuracy for flying close to structures, such as for wind turbine inspections.
The patent-pending navigation system consists of a guidance robot on the ground and an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) working in coordination to fly close to structures. The guidance robot first scans the environment; then, once the flight begins, the robot tracks and shares position updates with the drone and keeps the aircraft on course, despite any disturbances such as wind.
The system is operated via a touch screen interface and requires no manual piloting skills – making it accessible to climbers, technicians and anyone who is inspecting or maintaining industrial assets, PRENAV explains.Â
Product launch is slated for 2016. The company says it has secured $1.2 million in seed funding from Pejman Mar Ventures, Toivo Annus, Drone.VC, Michael Antonov and others.
PRENAV says it is currently working with wireless carriers, cell tower owners, service providers and wind turbine operators. An early customer was Senvion, which provides operations and maintenance services for nearly 1,000 wind turbines across North America.
‘We are looking forward to integrating PRENAV's technology into our day-to-day service cycle in order to increase our efficiency and provide our customers with less downtime,’ says Hardy Steinacker, head of service for the Americas at Senvion Canada Inc. ‘PRENAV's automated system not only captures the imagery, but also processes and distributes it for further analysis to our technicians below."
Nathan Schuett, CEO of PRENAV, adds, ‘The current generation of drones struggle when they need to fly close to structures due to limitations of GPS and collision-avoidance sensors. As a result, infrastructure inspection is a very difficult task – even for the most highly trained pilots. Our technology automates the entire mission, ensuring that the right photos are taken every time and that an accurate 3D reconstruction is built and delivered to our customers.’
A video of PRENAV's precision drone technology can be seen here.