Sparrow by Percepto: the autonomous drone with computer vision

Published on Tuesday, 29 January 2019

“Being an innovator is a all about taking a challenge and cracking it in such a way that you provide a valuable solution to a real problem.”

– Dor Abuhasira, CEO of Percepto

The concept of “a drone in a box” allows for scheduled and ad-hoc remote drone operations without the need for a pilot. This is translated into improved security, fewer safety risks and reduced operating costs. According to Abuharisa, “This solution can be thought of as a ‘private satellite’ available for an organisation anytime and anywhere. This provides the organisation with aerial information and insights for better awareness and improved decision-making.” These kinds of solutions were quickly embraced by the industry, and Percepto is now “the market leader in this domain.”

Technology that makes the difference

The staff at Percepto wanted to make their drones unique. They did so by adding computer-vision based applications. With this in mind, they started developing “the company’s PerceptoCore technology, an onboard drone module enabling real-time computer vision processing.” Computer vision works to enable computers to see, identify and process images in the same way that humans do. Over time, they harnessed the computer-based capabilities to develop what is now their fully autonomous drone. 

The staff use the latest technology that is available on the market today. Firstly, “cloud technology to enable controlling a drone, or fleet of drones, remotely, from anywhere in the world,” says the CEO. Secondly, for the drone’s robotic capabilities, “we utilise our core computer vision technology, along with deep learning and other forms of Artificial Intelligence,” he adds. Thirdly, they also use big data technology to provide insights from the data captured.

Their concept of operation allows for a fully autonomous cycle, from launch to land; the system can even make decisions on the fly without the intervention of an operator. For instance, “the drone has the ability to automatically start tracking an object of interest or initiate a ‘return to base’ procedure in the case  of low battery availability,” says Abuhasira.

That’s why Sparrow is specially designed to work in large industrial and/or critical facilities. Percepto, which is based in Modi'in (Israel), has clients on four continents, including projects in the US, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Israel and Singapore.

Drones for power generation sites with Enel

Percepto’s relationship with Enel started back in 2016, when it presented the idea to Gioacchino Bellia, the Group’s Head of Startup and Open Innovation Global Thermal Generation. Following his interest in the computer vision capabilities, in 2017 an on-site proof-of-concept took place, and this developed into a full deployment in early 2018. Since then the two companies have been working closely to increase the type of missions the drone performs on site and to deploy additional systems at Enel Green Power’s solar sites.

Enel was one of the first power companies to choose and deploy the Percepto solution.  Having realised that innovation is a core pillar in Enel’s growth strategy, we quickly embraced Enel as a design partner and a major contributor to our short and long-term roadmap,” says Abuhasira. This included working together with the Italian authorities on ensuring airworthiness and the ability to conduct beyond visual line-of-sight flights. “Enel and Percepto are the first companies to get this approval for power generation facilities in Italy,”  declares the CEO.

The two companies are now working together on generating additional applications to meet the needs and challenges of Enel’s daily operations at power generation sites. Abuhasira sums up their next objectives: “We aim to enhance our autonomous industrial drones with additional real time computer vision capabilities, as well as post processing AI, to provide value added applications that will utilise the drone-captured footage to provide actionable insights.”

Take a look at the sky: you might see a tech-Sparrow flying.

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