Iris Automation gets funding for plan to bring AI to commercial drones

Iris Automation gets funding for plan to bring AI to commercial drones

Collision avoidance provider Iris Automation has received $ 8 million funding to bring its AI technology to autonomous drones and other flying vehicles.

In October 2015, Iris Automation’s founders put fingers to keys and wrote the company’s first lines of code. Two months later, they had a prototype for a system that aims to tackle the three big challenges facing the industrial drone industry: reliability, safety and autonomy. Their collision avoidance system for commercial drones promises to unlock the potential of beyond line-of-sight use cases.

After humble beginnings, the San Francisco-based company was accepted into the Y-Combinator start-up accelerator program in 2016 and, just yesterday, announced $ 8 million of Series A funding, led by Bessemer Ventures, to bring their AI-powered technology to life.

“Iris’ exceptional team has unlocked a $ 100 billion global industry by ensuring aviation safety in a world serviced by drones. No other technology comes close to their system in providing situational awareness in a feasible package for the flying robotics industry,” said David Cowan, the partner at Bessemer who led rounds in aerospace innovators like Skybox, Rocket Lab and Spire Global.

The operation of UAVs beyond line-of-sight without suitable sense and avoid systems is largely forbidden by regulatory bodies. That’s why, if drones are to become more widely useful, autonomous tools for industry, they need intelligent situational awareness technology.

Read more: Can drones and commercial aircraft safely share airspace?

The case for autonomous drones

Regardless of how skilled a drone pilot may be, it can be difficult to see hazards, due to the reliance of onboard cameras at longer ranges. Collisions can have expensive, or even tragic, consequences. When a company can’t demonstrate adequate mitigation of operational risk, regulators must limit drone applications.

Iris’s solution combines computer vision and deep learning algorithms to allow the drone to see the world much like a human pilot does – identifying potential hazards and intuiting speed and distance. The plug-and-play system interweaves basic deterministic algorithms with more advanced, non­deterministic algorithms and neural networks, which allow the system to be fault tolerant.

Harnessing this technology, the platform can detect distant objects, identify it (as a light aircraft, for example) and estimate its distance. A sophisticated logic core then autonomously manoeuvres the drone (or other flying robot) out of a collision trajectory.

Read more: Drones offer a new perspective on British Columbia wildfires

Rising above the competition

“Iris Automation’s approach to sensing is unlike anything ever attempted in the autonomous vehicle space,” said Alexander Harmsen, CEO at Iris Automation. “Our team of experts in computer vision, machine learning, and traditional aviation have built a product that will provide the level of safety necessary for pushing the boundaries of what is possible with drones, at a size factor and price point unheard of in the world of aviation.”

For all the artificial intelligence and machine learning power behind of its software, it’s somewhat surprising to learn that the hardware employs smartphone camera technology – but given the economies of scale of such devices, the cost, weight and power-intensiveness of radar, and the low resolution, unproven potential of LiDAR, it’s a shrewd choice.

“With a range of over 1,500ft, our system is 50x more powerful than the ‘bumper solutions’ that some current drone companies are using today with a mere 30ft detection range. Furthermore, the product is a standalone unit, agnostic to all platforms and can be integrated into any commercial drone in the world,” revealed Alejandro Galindo, Head of R&D.

Iris Automation

The Iris Automation team in its early days, working out of a basement (Credit: Iris Automation)

Read more: Parrot revamps consumer drones for commercial market

Autonomous drones: the business applications

Industrial drone operations using pilots would not be economically viable for many companies. The more cost-effective ability to fly autonomously and Beyond­Visual­Line­of­Sight (BVLOS) would pave the way for new methods of pipeline inspection, package delivery, large agribusiness, mining exploration, and much more besides.

Currently in open beta, Iris Automation is looking for partners in the UAV and drone space for its Early Adopter Program. Regulatory exceptions for BVLOS flights in the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAV rules (referred to as Part 107) allow drone companies to trial new technologies. There’s an opportunity to apply for BVLOS operations through the waiver process by using the Iris System before it is commercially available.

With its latest funding, Iris Automation is looking to expand its team (which already boasts expertise from the likes of NASA and Boeing) and scale its technology to participate in the upcoming White House UAS Integration Pilot Projects. Given, their product, talent and increasing financial backing, we could soon see myriad Iris-equipped autonomous drones rising out of Silicon Valley.

Read more: DJI launches FlightHub for drone fleet management

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Internet of Business

Infotainment and Telematics units gets more Secured

Argus Cyber Security and STMicroelectronics have come together to serve customers better with enhanced cyber security of connected automotive technologies. As telematics and infotainment units become increasingly complex to support high-value connected services, they become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

The duo efforts will go into detecting and blocking attacks on vehicle telematics units in real-time and prevent them from proliferating to the in-vehicle network.

Besides integrating Argus Connectivity Protection with ST’s Telemaco3P automotive microprocessor, the joint solution with Argus Lifespan Protection provides automakers with: situational awareness of the cyber health of their fleets on the road. The integrated offering provides a critical piece in a multi-layered approach to cyber defense, helping automakers secure vehicles and ensuring the safety of drivers and the public.

Besides enhancing connected automotive technologies, the other benefits of the joint solution include insights into emerging threats through big data analytics, and the ability to mitigate new threats through security updates over-the-air and enhance the secure deployment of remote services (applications, SW updates).

The Telemaco3P solution with Argus Connectivity and Lifespan Protection and its cross-platform operating system capabilities (compatible with Linux, QNX, Android and more) is on display during CES 2018.

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Internet Of Things | IoT India

India gets Dockless Motorbike Rental Platform

Wheelstreet has launched a Dockless Commute platform for their users. ‘Go’ is one of its kind motorbike rental platform. Post YC Funding, Wheelstreet Go is expanding its offerings and looking at creating a niche in the motorbike rental market.

Wheelstreet Go kicks off from three specific regions in Bangalore including Koramangala, BTM and HSR Layout. Dockless commute provides human intervention less transportation from Point A to Point B. The motorbike rental platform enables to pick-up a bike with in 100mts, without a third party involvement. After the U.S and China, Wheelstreet brings this concept to India for the ease of consumers.

Wheelstreet Go will make intra-city commute hassle free and allow the user to book a scooter by merely scanning the QR Code on the scooter available at the user’s doorsteps. The recent trends in consumer preference has pushed many companies/ start-ups to get out of their comfort zones and provide the consumer with further ease while commuting daily.

Wheelstreet is on a mission to solve traffic woes of commuters in India. As far security of the bikes is concerned, technology enabled GPS, smart locks and immobilisers will take care of it. Wheelstreet is looking at adding 25,000 scooters to their existing fleet in the upcoming quarter.

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Internet Of Things | IoT India

IoT security company Pwine Express gets $8M and a new CEO

Pwine Express, the maker of Pulse IoT security platform that identifies rouge devices and networks across connected devices raised $ 8M in new funding from existing investors .406 Ventures, Ascent Venture Partners and Fairhaven Capital.

Pulse Device Detection

The new funding comes with the change in leadership in the form of Todd DeSisto as the company’s new CEO. Desisto is an ex-CEO of Axeda, an IoT company acquired by PTC (Nasdaq: PTC) for $ 170M.

“The opportunity to work with a terrific team at an IoT security company like Pwnie was too good to pass up. At Axeda we saw that as things become connected to the Internet, they also become vulnerable to cyber threats. IoT environments cannot depend on the constant integrity of every connected device to ensure their ongoing security. A system specifically designed to monitor and protect the environment is required. Pwnie is well positioned to meet this challenge,”
CEO Desisto

The company’s core solutions include network asset discovery, wireless network security, Bluetooth security and rouge device and network detection. The company also sells penetration testing devices (called pentesting devices) to detect/assess on-site network/device security.

Pwn Plug R4

The new CEO will help the company by rolling out the new channel partner programs (aimed towards managed security service providers MSSPs). The funding proceeds will also help launch new IoT security products.

The latest round of funding brings Pwine’s total equity funding to $ 28M. There’s been a series of investments in the IoT security startups. This year four startups including ZingBox, CloudPost, Armis, and Mocana raised north of $ 50M. And, there’s a group of IoT security startups that got funded by the Department of Homeland Security in Q1’17. This shows that as the number of internet-connected devices/machines has increased, so has the need to secure these assets via new solutions.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

IoT Device Security startup ReFirm Labs gets $1.5M in funding

ReFirm Labs, an IoT device startup raised $ 1.5M in funding from DataTribe, a business incubator that funds the startups coming out of the federal intelligence community. The startup will use the funding proceeds to hire new talent and implement sales strategy.

The startup provides a platform called Centrifuge that validates the firmware, a type of computer program that provides the low-level control for the device’s specific hardware. The Centrifuge platform automatically vets and validates the firmware images for vulnerabilities in 30 minutes or less without having to access the source. It shows the ‘high-risk executables’ in images.

Some of the key threats identified by ReFirm include:

• Hidden Crypto Keys

• Password Discovery

• Insecure Code

At the heart of its product is Centrifuge’s ability to automate the process of detecting security flaws in connected devices and mitigating them. With the new funding, the startup plans to commercialize and sell the product to private companies.

“”They saw commercial promise in what we were trying to do, and wanted to give us some money to make it happen,” said ReFirm’s CEO, Terry Dunlap.


Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things