Percepto, a company that produces an autonomous “drone-in-a-box” solution, has issued a news release announcing its selection as one of six vendors on the FAA’s new UAS Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee, also known as ARC. The work of this committee will be important as the world heads inexorably toward an era of autonomous, safe, and routine BVLOS missions.

The Federal Aviation Administration, like many regulators, typically consults with key stakeholders when it’s considering new rules, technologies and more. And for the drone world, there’s probably nothing more critical than the regulatory path toward routine, automated BVLOS missions in airspace shared with crewed aircraft.

That’s really the key thing the FAA’s ARC will be looking at, and Percepto was selected by the FAA as one of the six manufacturers on board. The other five are: Aerovironment, AirRobotics, Boeing Insitu, Matternet and Skydio – and all have experience with autonomous BVLOS flight.

Percepto

Percepto produces a fully integrated solution for autonomous inspection and data acquisition. Its Sparrow drone can take off and land from a protective charging station, meaning human beings don’t even have to touch it except for maintenance and other Standard Operating Procedure checks. This video will give you a better idea:

It combines that drone-in-a-box solution with a software package called AIM – which stands for Autonomous Inspection and Monitoring. It can handle data acquisition and interpretation, mission and fleet management – even integration with robots like Boston Dynamics’ Spot.

Image via Percepto.co

Oh, and did we mention that the Sparrow comes with AI on board? That’s a big part of its value proposition, according to the company’s website:

The Percepto/Sparrow value proposition, via Percepto.co

In a nutshell…

All companies try to summarize their offerings in a couple of key paragraphs on their websites. Here’s what Percepto says about its products:

Percepto’s Sparrow autonomous drone solution conducts fully autonomous inspection, security and emergency response tasks at industrial sites, boosting productivity and minimizing risk and costs. With a 4K day camera and thermal camera, the AI-powered drone collects high quality aerial, visual data on a persistent and consistent basis, without human intervention. Any heavy industrial facility can reap the benefits from an easy-to-use solution delivering invaluable real-time insights provided by our autonomous industrial drones.

(You can download a full brochure from this page, after you hand over some basic data of your own.)

A chat with the CEO

Well, it wasn’t exactly a chat. But we emailed a few questions and received these responses from Dor Abuhasira, Percepto’s CEO and Co-Founder.

Q: How many Percepto Sparrow have been deployed?

A: More than 100 systems have been deployed to date, across 5 continents (South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia) at a variety of sites – oil & gas refineries, mines, solar farms and more.

Q: What are the key use-case scenarios for this product?

A: Inspection & Monitoring – anything from asset and infrastructure, visual and thermal inspection, to industrial sites construction monitoring . The solution automates both the data collection, dispatching the drone for this purpose, as well as the analysis of the data collected, generating reports automatically with the findings of each flight and mission. Example: At a mine, the solution is used for stockpile measurements. A drone will fly over a mine capturing high-res imagery and video of the mine, and AIM will generate 3D maps and volumetric measurements of stockpiles on site.

Q: What role do you believe BVLOS and automation will play in the future of drone use? 

A: We believe that BVLOS and automation will change everything and completely transform several industries. The future of drone use will be fully autonomous – no pilots and no human involvement. That means we will finally see drones implemented at scale as a network of robots providing various vital services for us. In the next few years, we expect to see autonomous drones flying around delivering packages, inspecting power lines, solar farms, cell towers and bridges.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: The industry is still in its early stages when it comes to adoption, in part due to the lack of a clear BVLOS rule. The potential market of autonomous drones is huge, and we expect that the BVLOS rule that will come into effect will boost adoption and enhance the value of the already highly-valued technology.

DroneDJ’s take

As we’ve previously reported, the Age of Autonomy is fast-approaching. The FAA recognizes this, which is why the UAS Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) was created.

With company’s like Percepto, Skydio and others on board (along with a ton of other companies and organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union through to Airbus), ARC has an important role to play. Being one of the six selected drone manufacturers on board is a big deal.

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