In a recognition of how the drone business has shifted in recent years, Delair announced today that it will spin out its drone-data platform into a separate company called Alteia. The new company will focus exclusively on developing and selling the AI-based visual intelligence platform that Delair launched last year.
Based in Toulouse, France, Delair got its start building fixed-wing commercial drones used in such sectors as utilities, mining, construction, and agriculture. But while the drone business has been ticking up steadily, the company’s data platform has been growing far more rapidly.
By separating that platform into a standalone company, it will be easier to market for use in a far wider array of services that employ computer vision, according to Delair CEO Michael de Lagarde who will now head the new company.
“We developed this service to process the massive amounts of visual data being collected,” de Lagarde said. “To help our customers make sense of it, we had to gather the data, analyze it, and deliver real business insights that could be used by our large industrial customers.”
Delair originally made its name thanks to its drones that can fly beyond the line of sight. That enabled long ranges which allowed customers to gather massive amounts of data. While consumer drones had initially created big buzz, Delair was always focused on commercial and industrial uses, which eventually became a far more substantial market for drones.
But over time, even the growth of this commercial sector has proven less robust than many had hoped. In addition, competition from China’s DJI, which became a dominant market player by selling a wide range of drones at lower costs, has limited the upside to drone hardware.
Still, de Largarde said Delair’s classic drone hardware business continues to expand, albeit at a slow and steady pace. While he believes it can continue to do so, the drone platform is seeing a much faster increase in customers and potential opportunities.
As originally designed, the cloud-based platform would receive data directly from drones’ computer vision systems and then meld it with other visual data to create more complete views and improve real-time analysis. As the platform is designed to deliver models in real-time, the AI component is critical to creating 2D and 3D models that are detailed enough to help customers make rapid decisions.
While originally developed inhouse for use with its drones, Delair realized after launching it as a standalone product last year that there was widespread interest. Not only can the platform work with just about any drone, including DJI’s, but it can work with most computer vision systems, including LIDAR and a growing array of IoT devices.
The potential for this visual intelligence platform attracted a partnership with Intel back in 2017 to help power the Intel Insight Platform. The following year, Intel made an eight-figure investment in Delair to further develop its analytics tools.
Launching Alteia as a standalone company will make it easier to demonstrate its growth trajectory and market potential when it goes in search of new funding next year, de Lagarde said. But in the meantime, the spinoff announcement also included the disclosure of several high-profile partnerships.
Those include partnerships with GE Digital and Microsoft. GE Digital will work with Alteia to develop AI-powered solutions for utilities. With Microsoft, Alteia will make its visual intelligence capabilities available to companies on the Azure cloud platform.
Alteia also signed a deal with Enedis, one of Europe’s largest power grid operators. Enedis will use Alteia’s platform to deploy computer vision and AI to automate the inspection of its electricity networks and maintenance operations. The new service will be rolled out across France in 2021.