Aerialtronics, Neurala Make Inspection Drones Smarter

mast-inspection_aerialtronics1-100682924-primary.idgeA dynamic duo – one part UAV company, one part software firm – wowed attendees at a European tech show last week with a new line of automated, smarter inspection drones.

Last week, Dutch drone manufacturer Aerialtronics and Boston-based “deep-learning” software company Neurala demonstrated a “smart” model of Aerialtronics’ Altura Zenith UAV at the GPU Technology Conference Europe in Amsterdam.

The quadcopter is equipped with an NVIDIA Jetson TX1 GPU sensor module – with thermal imaging functions — and works in conjunction with Neurala’s neural network software. The “intelligent drone” is specifically designed for inspection work on cell towers and other infrastructure. It can recognize different types of tower equipment, making inspections more accurate.

“Not only can we do clever things with the vision and thermal data, we can connect the flight computer so the drone is fully aware of it surroundings,” Aerialtronics product strategy chief Robin van Putte said in a press release.

“We don’t want to end our inspection mission with a SD card in our hand and invest a lot of time in data offloading and post-processing,” van Putte added. “Instead we want to be able to immediately verify the results and make quick decisions. Having artificial intelligence technology onboard accelerates our roadmap to full automation of the drone workflow.”

Neurala marketing VP Roger Matus said inspections drones of the future may be autonomous, using learning algorithms to inspect an expanding number of infrastructure sites. “A drone with Neurala software is capable of recognizing its environment and making decisions based on what it sees. Our future plan is to add autonomy so that drone inspections can be run at the push of a button.”

Both companies have bet the farm on the viability of drones to transform the inspection industry. This past month, Aerialtronics launched a partnership with IBM to integrate the Watson IoT platform with its drones.

Also in September, Neurala announced the launch of Bots Software Development Kit at Interdrone on Thursday. The kit will allow manufacturers to install artificial-intelligence neural software directly into their applications without the need for additional hardware.

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