Propeller Aerobotics raises $1m from Blackbird, Gonski for drone start-up



Sydney-based start-up Propeller Aerobotics, founded by Francis Vierboom and Rory San Miguel, has developed a digital platform that allows 3D maps created by a drone that has captured from overhead to be easily shared with big industrial clients.

The company was born out of the idea that drones could be a very valuable tool for industry – a faster way for a farmer to check hundreds of hectares of property or a safer way for a telecommunications company to get close up views of the tip of a tower without expensive and dangerous climbing.

But how Propeller has evolved in its first year and a bit says a lot about how drones are already increasingly used by industry. The duo initially wanted to build high-powered, fully automated drones that could scan sites and transmit back captured images. But big industrial clients told them they already had that information but it was “locked up on someone’s hard drive,”San Miguel tells Fairfax Media.

So instead they built a digital platform and a business model that covers both big contracts with clients, such as one of the country’s largest quarry operators Hanson, as well as providing their platform at a price to independent drone operators who then share the imagery with their own clients.

Drone operators are charged per hectare of data collected, or gigabyte of data uploaded to the platform, which is accessed by their clients. Vierboom and San Miguel declined to disclose early revenues.

“There are are over 280 drone operators [in Australia],” Vierboom says. “That’s more than doubled since the start of last year when Propeller started out. It’s a huge and growing industry.”

Propeller is the pair’s second go at a drone start-up after both worked with emerging delivery outfit Flirtey. San Miguel, 24, is a mechatronics engineering graduate and Vierboom, 30, escaped from building technology systems for big companies like the NRMA and bank NAB. “One day I read about drone delivery in the paper, sent an email, and I was start-up co-founder three weeks later,” he says.

Propeller will use their new cash to hire more developers, to add to the team of seven located at Sydney’s Australian Technology Park.

This article appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald. Propeller Aerobotics is a client of ATP Innovations, Australia’s leading business incubator.

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