VP Marketing at Percepto
Drone industry used to be a male-dominated space, but no more it is thanks to the interest shown by the women to get into the hobby.
We are a big believer of women and drones concept. We aim to interview more women drone pilots & enthusiasts and bring their talent and identity to the spotlight rather than hiding behind the scenes.
To mark the initiative, we have very dear Illy Gruber for this series of guest interview. She is the VP Marketing at Percepto and served as a flight simulator instructor in the Israeli Air Force.
She joined the Percepto company, the global market leader for autonomous industrial drone solutions to pursue her interest in the autonomous drone market.
In this interview, Illy will talk in-depth about how she got into drones, Percepto Drone-in-a-Box solution, the future of automated drones, her advice for starters, steps to take against UAV operations liability, and so on.
It can’t get better than this if you are a woman looking to test the waters or a man eager to know how women’s can transform the industry this is the piece of content not to miss out.
How did you got interested with drone technology?
Anybody who has spent even the briefest time working in Israel will know there is an ingrained culture of high-end technology innovation and entrepreneurialism.
Some think it got to do with the exposure of young Israelis to advanced technology throughout their military service. It is same for me, as well.
Having served as a flight simulator instructor in the Israeli Air Force I became a fan of both the flight world and of technology in general.
So, when I first learned about a company building autonomous drones powered by artificial intelligence, that could take off, conduct missions, and land all without the need for a human operator, it was a journey I wanted to be part.
Tell us about your organization, what is it, and your team members there. How did the organization get started?
Percepto was launched in 2014 by its founders Dor Abuhasira, Raviv Raz, Sagi Blonder, and Ariel Avitan. Today it is the industry front runner of on-site autonomous UAV solutions for industrial sites and critical infrastructures, serving a few Fortune 500 companies.
The organization is the winner of the Frost & Sullivan Global Enabling Technology Leadership Award. Not bad for an idea that was seeded as a result of wanting to use a drone for tracking and capturing all the action whilst they were skiing.
Tell us about a few of the products/drones you design and produce. What is your best seller?
The Percepto drone-in-a-box (DIB) solution is a unique concept for a drone that is deployed on-site, together with its base-station, and fully controlled remotely from there.
It consists of the drone itself (aka Sparrow) with its base-station and a cloud management system.
The drone and its base are weatherproof, equipped with UHD (4k) RGB and thermal cameras for video streaming, imagery collection for photography, orthomosaic maps, night vision, and temperature measurement. The drone uses its base to take-off, land, and recharge.
The hardware is powered by our PerceptoCore software, allowing for scheduling of various aerial missions, real-time operations, AI-enabled insights, and customized report generation.
Who are you covering? What types of industries/customers have you seen are most serious about autonomous Drone in a Box (DIB) solution?
Our customer base is truly global with energy and industrial sites (such as our implementations at Enel’s Torrevaldaliga Nord power plant in Italy), oil and gas facilities, mining operations, ports and terminals around the world.
They are all excited by the value autonomous drones can bring to their procedures. Typically, the application of our DIB solution fit into three main areas – safety and security, operations and maintenance and thirdly, regulatory compliance. Within these specific areas are even more varied use cases.
What are your insights on the way forward for automated drones? Will this be a matter, do you believe?
Automated drones won’t just be ‘a’ thing they will be ‘the’ thing when it comes to the industrial adoption of drones. Without the reliance on a certified drone pilot, autonomous drones can fly scheduled or on-demand missions 24/7/365.
The simplicity of our solution empowers each industrial site employee with the ability to gain aerial data and insights in one click.
This trend provides teams with a new skill set and an excellent tool allowing them to do their job more efficiently with a high reduction of risk and costs.
What is the demand for autonomous drone solutions and AI currently? How has it changed since you launched your business?
We deployed our first DIB in 2017. Since then, our R&D teams have been continuously improving how to provide insights rather than masses of data.
As with the evolution of CCTV, having hundreds of hours of video is not useful, whereas a notification of a temperature breach or a suspicious person is a tangible insight that can lead to immediate action from the team.
This is why customers aren’t looking for flying cameras, but a drone that can process and transform data into action.
From a Percepto perspective, the market is strong and getting stronger, as the autonomous story gains more traction and use cases such as Enel prove the hype is justified.
We are busy racking up the air miles to take advantage of a global market opportunity. Earlier this year, we launched in Australia.
Just last week, we announced a new collaboration in Singapore, and in May we secured $15 million in series A financing to assist us in scaling our operations to match demand.
What advice do you have for others who wish to start flying drones?
Drones are exciting, but it is essential to remember that they are a tool (albeit a very cool one) that can be deployed to address multiple challenges within an organization.
If you want to get involved in the world of drones (particularly in an industrial context), it is vital to see the bigger picture and understand why drones are being used and not just how.
What advances on drone technology you are looking forward?
I guess that by now, you can predict my answer to this one – autonomous drones are among the most exciting areas for the industry right now.
Have you ever before crashed a drone?
If a drone company tells you they’ve never crashed a drone, I’d be suspicious we operate a test field area where we constantly challenge our drones.
We always look to expand their performance envelope and most importantly, to make sure they are bulletproof from a safety standpoint.
We have incorporated multiple layers of safety mechanisms to ensure these autonomous robots will never crash on live deployment.
We fly them in challenging conditions and intentionally try to fail them. In our test site, we push our drones as far as possible, with one goal in mind – provide the safest and most reliable solution to our customers.
Where do you find drones headed in five years? ten years?
According to the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), drones and related technologies are projected to contribute $82 billion to the U.S. economy alone by 2025 and spur the creation of 100,000 new jobs.
From Percepto perspective, we can already see how drone-in-a-box solution turns into a must-have technology in each industrial site, side-by-side with the fence, gate, CCTV, and other IoT devices across the site.
What have been a few particularly memorable drone events you have participated? What did you learn from that experience?
Our work takes us throughout the world and has provided many ‘pinch yourself’ moments, such as the first time we flew one of our drones over the world’s first 5G trial network in South Korea.
But in truth, watching the reaction of people the first time they see our drones taking off on its own and flying missions is priceless.
What are a few of the most creative ways you have seen drones getting used?
Other than Percepto incredible precise landing mechanism in high wind and rain, seeing Intel operating dozens of drones swarm in amazing coordination was an exciting moment.
For those companies or people who are utilizing drones in their organization, what steps they should take to safeguard themselves against financial liability?
You cannot talk about drones without discussing regulation. Long before one of our drones arrives on site, we begin working with an organization to ensure they have the necessary waivers in place to ensure it can be flown in compliance with local laws.
Furthermore, the PerceptoCore software enables the flight of drones to be strictly set and monitored, from designating boundaries and safe flying zones, setting minimum and a maximum altitude of a drone in flight to on-the-fly decisions in cases of low battery, etc.
For example, if the flight path of a drone requires it to fly over a highway, it can be programmed to automatically stop if vehicles are detected on the road and control given to an operator to guarantee safe passage.
Where can we locate you when you are not behind drones?
You will rarely find me ‘behind the drones’ as I fly our drones remotely from my laptop, using the PerceptoCore Software.
And, when not dealing with drones, I enjoy playing catchibol with my team, while my kids are cheering on in the crowd.