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Percepto, an Israel-based developer of drones for monitoring and analyzing industrial sites, raised $45 million in Series B funding and partnered with RBR50 company Boston Dynamics. The Series B funding, led by Koch Disruptive Technologies, brings Percepto’s total funding to date to $72.5 million.
With the funding, Percepto is launching its Autonomous Inspection & Monitoring (AIM) platform. The company plans to use its autonomous Sparrow drone and third-party robots for site inspection applications. Boston Dynamics’ Spot quadruped is the first ground-based robot to be integrated with AIM.
As you can see in the video below, Spot can carry Percepto’s payloads for high-resolution imaging and thermal vision. It can detect various anomalies around a site, including hot spots on machines or electrical conductors, water and steam leaks and equipment with degraded performance. The data is relayed to human operators via AIM.
ICL Dead Sea, a global mineral and chemicals company, has been operating Percepto’s drone-in-a-box solution to carry out inspection, safety and security missions at its operations at the Dead Sea site. The company was also the first to fly beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) in Israel. A fleet that consists of Spot and a Sparrow drone could provide it with a better picture of what is happening at its facility.
“With Percepto’s AIM, we can now live stream all of our missions and no longer have to be physically present on site to control decisions regarding maintenance and operations,” said Shay Hen, ICL Dead Sea Drone Program Manager. “Wherever we are, we know exactly what is happening on site. We are looking forward to examining the integration of additional robots such as Boston Dynamics’ Spot onto our site for holistic inspection capabilities beyond aerial inspection.”
This partnership is another sign Boston Dynamics continues to make in-roads after commercializing Spot in June 2020. Boston Dynamics has already sold 400-plus robots and generated $30 million-plus in revenue. If you think the company’s robots are nothing more than “automated baseball fans,” you haven’t been paying attention. Any robotics company that commercialized its first robot just five months ago, after being primarily focused on R&D for 20-plus years, would be ecstatic with those numbers.
“Combining Percepto’s Sparrow drone with Spot creates a unique solution for remote inspection,” said Michael Perry, VP of Business Development at Boston Dynamics, which recently released version 2.1 of Spot. “This partnership demonstrates the value of harnessing robotic collaborations and the insurmountable benefits to worker safety and cost savings that robotics can bring to industries that involve hazardous or remote work.”
Boston Dynamics formed a similar partnership with Trimble to expand its use in the construction industry. The deal gave Trimble exclusive rights to sell and support Spot with integrated scanning, total station and GNSS technologies for the construction market. This system is expected to be available by the second quarter 2021 through Boston Dynamics, Trimble and select BuildingPoint and SITECH distribution partners.
“Our customers, which include some of the world’s leading utility, oil & gas sites, mining and other critical infrastructure facilities, are eager to fully embrace automation across their operations and reap the benefits of driving efficiency, reducing costs and safeguarding staff,” said Dor Abuhasira, CEO and Co-Founder Percepto.
Despite this early success, Softbank reportedly is in talks to sell Boston Dynamics to Hyundai for upwards of $1 billion. If the deal comes to fruition, it would be another in a string of non-core asset sales by Tokyo-based Softbank. The Japanese conglomerate has been hit hard by a series of soured bets, including WeWork and Uber Technologies. In September 2020, Softbank sold Arm to NVIDIA for $40 billion.
SoftBank Group is also a holding company for SoftBank Robotics, which produces the Pepper humanoid (formerly from Aldebaran Robotics) and the Whiz commercial floor-cleaning robot. Boston Dynamics was founded in 1992 as a spin-off out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was acquired by Google in 2013 and sold to Softbank in 2017.