New Products from Percepto: What’s Next for Fully Automated Drone Operations

percepto new products

Photo by Jim Magill
Percepto officials display a drone at the Energy Drone & Robotics Summit in The Woodlands, Texas. From left: Brian Babcock, U.S. sales director; Anat Tal, project manager; Percepto CEO Dor Abuhasira.

New products from Percepto will be introduced next month, CEO says.

By Jim Magill

Looking to further expand its footprint into the industrial and utility inspection market, drone and software company Percepto plans to next month introduce new products associated with its two main lines of business, autonomous robotic platforms and artificial intelligence (AI) software.

This week at the Energy Drone & Robotics Summit in The Woodlands, Texas, Percepto CEO Dor Abuhasira announced a new product launch would take place for its autonomous robotic platform segment, on Nov. 17.

New Products from Percepto

The development of autonomous robotic platforms designed to collect vast stores of data, with little or no human intervention, is key to revolutionizing the process of industrial asset inspection, Abuhasira said.

“We see automation as a process,” he said. An operator of a pipeline, for example, needs to know if that pipeline is maintaining its physical integrity over a long distance. “That consists of getting the data and analyzing it.” In both of those steps, autonomous drone platforms are playing an increasingly vital role, replacing humans in that inspection process.

Unlike its robotics products line, which can be applied across many industry segments, “with AI, it’s more vertical-specific. There’s a package for pipelines, there’s a package for solar facilities, there’s a package for power lines,” Abuhasira said.

The Israel-based company has long worked to develop technology capable of autonomously conducting inspection of industrial and energy-producing facilities, paving the way for fully remote operations of those facilities in the future.

Last year the company launched its Autonomous Inspection & Monitoring (AIM) platform that incorporates its Sparrow drone-in-a box system to provide visual data management and analysis. The system can spot equipment failures, such as cracks in a pipeline, and prepares reports that can alert facility operators of potential risks before they result in major failures.

In May, Percepto announced it was teaming up with Boston Dynamics to provide software to deploy that company’s walking robot, Spot. Florida Power & Light is using the dog-like, ground-based robot in conjunction with Percepto’s Sparrow to conduct a fully autonomous outdoor inspection of remote facilities as part of the utility’s hurricane recovery plan.

The company conducts its research and development operations in Israel, where it also currently manufactures its drone. But Abuhasira said Percepto works with a global manufacturer and could possibly set up manufacturing in other countries where market conditions are favorable. The company maintains several offices in the U.S., the largest being in Texas.

“The US is the biggest market by far and we expect it to remain our biggest market,” he said.

Autonomous drone regulations vary across jurisdictions

Regulations regarding fully autonomous drone operations vary from country to country. In the U.S., “federal regulation is still a constraint for some of our customers,” Abuhasira said. This is especially true for customers interested in conducting inspections at remote locations, such as electric power substations, that typically don’t employ personnel on site.

“If you focus on the US, you have to have someone defined as the operator. Regulations dictate that the operator is aware of the flight,” he said.

In countries that don’t have that regulation, the system is able to operate completely autonomously, with the drone and/or ground-based robot being powered up at regular intervals to fly or walk through the preprogrammed inspection course. The system’s software analyses the data collected from repeated inspections so that a plant operator can spot a possible weakness in a valve or other anomaly occurring over time.

“The neat part about us is we’re not only flying today, we’ve probably flown yesterday and the day before and we have data from those past flights that will help us be more effective for today’s flight,” he said.

With 130 employees, dozens of clients in the fields of power generation, energy, industrial facilities and open-pit mining worldwide, Percepto is focused on the growth of sales and improving its technology, Abuhasira said.

“We are always looking for new sensors and new platforms to integrate into our system to make it more complete and make it easier for our customers to find the right solution for them.”

Jim Magill is a Houston-based writer with almost a quarter-century of experience covering technical and economic developments in the oil and gas industry. After retiring in December 2019 as a senior editor with S&P Global Platts, Jim began writing about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robots and drones, and the ways in which they’re contributing to our society. In addition to DroneLife, Jim is a contributor to and his work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, U.S. News & World Report, and Unmanned Systems, a publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.