Trailblazer Q&A: Delair’s Baptiste Tripard on their new drone data solution

By Katerina Mansour - 26 October 2020

Initially developed for military purposes, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have come a long way over the past century. Today, commercial drones have found a wide variety of applications for themselves. Some of the industries that present significant adoption rates are the agriculture, mining, oil & gas and construction sectors.

Indeed, drones can help monitor livestock, fertilize crops, inspect sites, detect abnormalities and manage tailings dams. Drone solutions paired with software analytics can help companies optimise their operations, perform challenging tasks more precisely, and reduce costs.

Of course, these are just a few of the many industries in which drones have emerged as an invaluable resource. In fact, part of what has helped this sector experience such significant growth is the emergence of new use cases over time.

Startups are playing a central role in both the development and enablement of new use cases for drone technology. Here we focus on a rated startup bringing versatile solutions for companies to collect and leverage drone data.

Delair’s spin-off Alteia takes flight

Delair manufactures enterprise drones operable over long distances. Its drones are equipped with lidar sensors and connected to a software platform where images can be extracted.

Delair’s solutions enable clients to respond to challenges in cartography, inspection, surveillance and safety via an analytics dashboard and published reports. Rated by Early Metrics in August 2019, the startup placed in the top 20% of all our rated startups.

The company just recently announced the launch of a spin-off project: Alteia. The visual intelligence platform, powered by computer vision and AI, goes a step further in helping companies leverage collected drone data.

Mines & aggregates are among the many sectors targeted by Alteia

Q&A with Delair

We reached out to the startup’s team to gain some insights on the current landscape. Baptiste Tripard, Head of Global Business Development, provided us with the following answers:

EM: What would you say is the next step in terms of innovation for B2B drone-based solutions?

BT: “Based on Alteia’s DNA, we’d have to say the automation of inspection workflows. We implement a drone data acquisition strategy based on the type of results our clients expect to see. This focuses on how to derive business insights beyond the technicalities that come with flight planning and resolution of drone images.”

EM: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face since launching Delair and Alteia?

BT: “The scalability of data management and how to scale drone operations. The limiting factor wasn’t really finding efficient drones or pilots, it was figuring out what to do with all the data that was collected, organizing terabytes of data, and making it available in a client’s IT environment. Our challenge as a company was to provide a solution that was scalable, elastic, and provides the computing capabilities for data management. It’s been an eight-year process to finally reach the point that we are now at with Alteia.”

EM: Indeed, the sheer amount of drone data has historically led to challenges regarding its management. Having terabytes of data can only serve a company if that data is transformed into actionable insights.

EM: Do you feel that the demand for drone-based business solutions is going to increase due to Covid-19?

BT: “The pandemic means that people will travel less for on-site meetings, inspections and audits. Our assumption is that audits and processes will become more and more digitized. People realised it is more efficient to do video conferences on Zoom than on-site. There will be a need to collect field data without people being in the field. In this regard, drones will help because you can collect data with much less time in the field. And then using software like Alteia, people will meet to review site data and make decisions remotely. There is certainly a need for this type of data to be accurate enough so people can make decisions in video conferences.”

EM: Indeed, drones and digital solutions have been embraced by many sectors during the pandemic. Companies in a variety of industries have relied on drones to ensure regular inspections (construction, oil & gas, energy, utilities, etc.). By pairing drones with analytics software, site monitoring and inspection can be done remotely, thus avoiding human contact. Perhaps most notable to consumers, adoption of drones as a delivery solution has also increased during the pandemic.

They have been used not only to deliver groceries and meals but also medical supplies. While it seems challenging to determine with any certainty that this upwards growth will continue post-pandemic, some research and predictions have already come out with positive outlooks. It’s expected that the pandemic will continue to fuel growth and expansion within this sector, as use cases continue to multiply.

EM: You recently launched Alteia, shifting towards a focus on data, could you tell us more about this project and your vision for Alteia’s future on the market?

BT: “If you look at the cost of data collection solutions, it has dramatically decreased. When I started in the drone industry, a lidar scanner was $400,000. Now you can get handheld lidar devices that are only $500, and a lidar scanner has even been implemented on the new iPhone! We observe a diversification of devices to collect 2D and 3D images. Drones were the kickstarter of that, people understood that with this technology you could have a new layer of geospatial information that would facilitate the decision-making process. Now they realise that by using images on their smartphone they can process 3D information as well. The new generation of smartphones and tablets equipped with Alteia’s mobile application makes it possible to create a 3D scene in augmented reality.

All of this creates a massive amount of georeferenced data that is collected. This is the future: every process done in the field will be doubled with a digital process, which will use any tool for collecting imagery such as helicopters, drones, lidar scanners, smartphones, IoT sensors etc.”

Forestry data visualisation by Delair

We’ve come a long way since the first UAVs were developed. Overall, the drone market continues to find areas in which it can bring improvement, thus helping ensure its continued growth. It has arguably been proven to be an invaluable tool to help digitise and in turn speed up time-consuming processes like site inspections or site mappings. We congratulate Delair on the launch of their new project, Alteia, which we see as a relevant and promising response to market needs.

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