The Uavia Robotics Platform enables over-the-horizon c-drone piloting and monitoring in a browser through the cloud for industrial applications. Image: Uavia

Airbus Ventures, Sofimac Innovation, Bpifrance invest in Uavia

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Uavia, a French startup based near Paris, has secured €2 million ($2.5 million) in first-round funding from Airbus Ventures, Sofimac Innovation, and the F3A government fund managed by Bpifrance. Founded in 2015 by Clément Christomanos, Pierre Pelé and Luc Clément, Uavia has developed a software platform for controlling c-drones and industrial robots over 4G/LTE cellular networks and processing their video and data streams. Uavia has also developed a c-drone dubbed the Skyguard which operates from a base station called a Dronedock. The software Uavia Robotics Platform, which runs in a web browser, allows secure remote beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) piloting of both Uavia’s c-drones and those of other manufacturers fitted with a cellular modem. This approach, based on IP (Internet Protocol), offers a way to bypass the short range limitations of local radio or wifi c-drone controllers while simplifying data integration in a cloud architecture.

This announcement follows the March 29th publication of Uavia’s US patent for the technology, three years after the first French patent application. The patent describes how piloting data is transmitted to a c-drone, and flight telemetry data and video are received, with realtime network quality analysis. Flight data is exchanged with constant bitrate (CBR), while the video is transmitted at variable bitrate (VBR), adjusted according to the total available bandwidth, both the cellular signal and the Internet cloud. Cellular data bandwidth typically varies widely, due to shared usage, topography, and atmospheric conditions, while Internet bandwidth is also subject to variation, depending on the number of routing nodes taken for example. In congestion conditions, the video stream is momentarily degraded (resolution, framerate, …) with the focus on low latency. Flight control is maintained since that data usually comprises less than 10% of the bandwidth used by a c-drone piloted through the platform.

This internet protocol (IP) approach makes possible multiple operators for a c-drone, for example one user as pilot, another as camera operator, and a third inspecting data. Uavia’s platform manages rights dynamically for these different user profiles; in one scenario, control of an autonomous c-drone can be taken over by a pilot in-flight for a delicate part of a mission, or as a response to emergency conditions. It is also possible for a pool of operators to fly a fleet of drones simultaneously, each operator specialized in their function for several c-drones, sharing tasks such as autonomous flight monitoring, piloting or realtime data analysis.

Other companies developing in the cellular-control space include Globe UAV, Flytbase, and a partnership between Terra Drone, KDDI and Zenrin in Japan.

The company also announced the appointment of Pierre Vilpoux, an advisor to the startup, as Chief Business Officer, responsible for international development and industrial partnerships.

Airbus Ventures, created in 2015 with a starting capital of €150M ($180M), is the early-stage investment arm of the European giant, operating a Silicon Valley office which oversees investments in over a dozen startups. Bpifrance is France’s public bank for investment organized in 2013 and manages the €50M ($60M) F3A fund (Fonds Ambition Amorçage Angels) on behalf of the French government’s Future Investments Program.