As the skies open up to drones, Aussie start-up partners with global giants

CASA (The Civil Aviation Safety Authority) has made changes to Australian law that come into effect tomorrow (Sep 29 2016) which will allow people to fly drones in most common commercial situations without a license.

For Sydney-based drone mapping start-up, Propeller Aero, this is welcome news and coincides with US $3.1m worth of new investment from leading Silicon Valley tech firms and a landmark partnership with Chinese company, DJI — the world’s biggest drone seller.

Appetite for drone-based technology is clear, and Propeller has capitalised on this, announcing a new investment round led by Costanoa VC and Accel Partners (one of Silicon Valley’s largest and most successful venture firms and investor in Australian tech darling Atlassian, along with Facebook, Dropbox and Slack). Australia’s leading technology venture firm, Blackbird Ventures, is among existing Propeller investors also part of this latest round.

Propeller Aero offers customers access to a powerful 3D visualisation cloud platform that makes drone data useful, even in the hands of a non-specialist. With Propeller, businesses can instantly measure volumes and distances on any site, and track changes over time.

In addition to their software offering, Propeller Aero has launched a world-first hardware product known as AeroPoints — a smart ground control system that delivers survey-grade data for engineering precision. The first batch of AeroPoints sold out within days, to customers around the world, including NASA. A second, larger product batch is now in production and currently available to pre-order.

Until now, Australian businesses who wanted to put drones to work needed a company operating certificate and an operator with a personal pilot’s license. But, as of Thursday, all that is required is for companies to give CASA five days notice before a flight.

“Now is the time for Australian companies to take a serious look at what drones could be doing their business”, said Rory San Miguel, co-CEO of Propeller Aero.

“In terms of CASA’s announcement, we expect the biggest changes will happen on work sites — in resources, construction and oil and gas. In these industries, it’s simple to meet the requirements of the new regulations and potential cost savings are in the millions.”

“If it’s dirty, dull or dangerous, send a drone in. That’s our vision; drone data on-tap for big and small businesses alike”.

Most Silicon Valley-backed start ups are based in the US, and Propeller Aero is a global company with customers in over 60 countries, but San Miguel is keen to stay put in Sydney where he sees an opportunity to leverage Australia’s strengths in the mining and construction sectors.

“Australian industries are leading adopters of new technology. Hundreds of millions are spent every year on-site surveys for planning and progress claim validation. Drone surveying means lives saved on work sites and serious money saved on major projects.”

“We’re excited to introduce our industry-leading accuracy technologies and cloud platform to new customers”.

 

Propeller Aero is based in Sydney, Australia with an office in New York. It was founded in 2014 by drone tinkerers, Francis Vierboom and Rory San Miguel, and currently employs 16 people.