YC-backed Sterblue aims to enable smarter drone inspections

Startups

As government regulation for commercial drone usage seems to be trending in a very positive direction for the companies involved, there is an ever-growing opportunity for drone startups to utilize artificial intelligence to deliver insights without requiring much human effort.

Sterblue, a French drone software startup that is launching out of Y Combinator’s latest class of companies, is aiming to get off-the-shelf drones inspecting large outdoor structures up close with automated insights that identify anomalies that need a second look.

The startup’s software is specifically focused on enabling drones to easily inspect large power lines or wind turbines with simple automated trajectories that can get a job done much quicker and with less room for human error. The software also allows the drones to get much closer to the large structures they are scanning so the scanned images are as high-quality as possible.

Compared to navigating a tight urban environment, Sterblue has the benefit of there being very few airborne anomalies around these structures, so autonomously flying along certain flight paths is as easy as having a CAD structure available and enough wiggle room to correct for things like wind condition.

Operators basically just have to connect their drones to the Sterblue cloud platform where they can upload photos and view 3D models of the structures they have scanned while letting the startup’s neural net identify any issues that need further attention. All and all, Sterblue says their software can let drones get within three meters of power lines and wind turbines, which allows their AI systems to easily detect anomalies from the photos being taken. Sterblue says their system can detect defects as small as one millimeter in size.

The startup was initially working on their own custom drone hardware but decided that their efforts were best spent supporting off-the-shelf devices from companies like DJI, with their software solution sitting on top. The founding team is composed of former Airbus employees that are focusing early efforts on utility companies, with some of the first customers based in Europe, Africa and Asia.

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