Inspection-by-drone company gets $3.25M in energy sector funding

Drones-as-a-service are the biggest growth area for non-military UAV.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

Heres more proof that drones-as-a-service are gaining ground. Sharper Shape, which sells drone-based automated asset inspection solutions, just announced $3.25 million in new funding led by Straightforward Capital, a European venture capital firm with experience in the energy sector.

As I've written, Sharper Shape is using LiDAR, along with analysis tools and long drone flights, to build 3D maps identifying trees, which utility companies can use to measure imminent threats. Fallen trees and swinging branches are a major threat to power lines.

That investor Straightforward Capital is an energy sector veteran makes sense. One of the biggest areas for expansion for drones is inspecting infrastructure, and the oil and gas industries have a lot of infrastructure that requires government-mandating inspection. Previously those inspections were carried out manually, which is slow and expensive. That's why drones-as-a-service are an appealing alternative. One inspector can pilot a drone over hundreds of miles of pipeline (or high tension wires, or railroad tracks, or anything else that requires visual or infrared inspection) from a remote location with ease.

In addition to financing from Straightforward Capital, the Sharper Shape funding includes strategic investment from partners of an Australia-based global performance improvement consulting company, Partners in Performance (PIP). PIP wants a piece of Sharper Shape so it can extend its service offering for its energy customers to include Sharper Shape's automated asset inspection and analysis.

"Sharper Shape's unique services, which combine long-distance drone survey flights and automated data analysis, will provide unprecedented efficiency gains to electricity grid operators," said Andrej Srsen, Straightforward Capital's managing director. "Sharper Shape's versatile software solution, proven for the electricity industry, scales directly to other industries such as railways, oil and gas, and wind power plants."

The funding will be used to strengthen Sharper Shape's global delivery capacity and its investments in R&D. I'll be following the company going forward, especially as FAA regulations on commercial drone use evolve to potentially include flights that go beyond line of sight, which is a current limitation.

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