CSIRO's Data61 alumni Emesent is flying drones beyond line-of-sight

The company has developed a technology that can collect data and map challenging areas such as mines, telecommunications infrastructure, and environments struck by natural disasters.

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Image: Emesent

Brisbane-based drone company Emesent has launched what it has dubbed as the "first plug-and-play payload" that enables industrial drones to fly beyond communications range and into unmapped areas.

Built on Emesent's Hovermap simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM) autonomous flight system, the autonomy level 2 (AL2) technology was designed to enable companies to map, navigate, and collect data in challenging environments, such as mines, civil construction works, telecommunications infrastructure, and areas hit by natural disasters.

"With the intelligence to navigate environments without a prior map, customers can use the system to carry out complex missions, secure the safety of personnel, and drive greater efficiency in their operations," Emesent co-founder and CEO Stefan Hrabar said.

Emesent added that using AL2 would mean the drone processes data on-board in real-time to stream a 3D map of the environment back to the operator's tablet.

It also touted that the ability for a drone to fly beyond line of sight allows workers to avoid hazardous environments while also enhancing visibility.

As part of the project, Emesent has worked with DJI to ensure AL2 is compatible with a number of DJI Enterprise drones. The company added that plans for further compatibility with other drone models were underway. 

The development of the AL2 technology follows on from the company's AL1 capabilities that have been in use by customers for almost two years.

"AL2 is a game changer for us. It takes Hovermap into places that even the most experienced pilots would fear to venture, enabling us to obtain critical data in real-time without risking the machine. We're already seeing great benefits to our workflow and operational efficiency from using the new technology," Pybar Mining Services CTO Andrew Rouse said.

Emesent was spun out of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) Data61, and collected AU$3.5 million in a funding round led by the CSIRO Innovation Fund back in 2018.

At the time, the company reported it would use the cash to commercialise its Hovermap product and grow its staff to 25 people.

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