Vtrus’ ABI Zero drone is designed to conduct indoor inspections autonomously. (Vtrus via YouTube)
Seattle startup Vtrus has raised investment for a different kind of drone — one that’s designed to conduct precision inspections of industrial facilities.
A SEC filing published today shows a $2.9 million cash infusion for Vtrus. Renato Salas-Moreno, the company’s CEO and co-founder, declined to comment on the new funding when contacted by GeekWire.
Salas-Moreno was previously the co-founder of Surreal Vision, a computer vision startup that was sold in 2015 to Oculus, Facebook’s VR subsidiary. He went on to work at Oculus VR for more than a year as a research scientist in Redmond, Wash., then helped lay the groundwork for Vtrus, which he launched in 2017 with chief technology officer Jonathan Lenoff and chief design officer Carlos Sanchez.
The company, based near Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood, has developed an indoor autonomous drone known as the ABI Zero that can navigate its way around the tricky surroundings of a warehouse environment without the need for a remote operator or GPS waypoints.
ABI Zero can conduct an aerial survey for as long as 10 minutes, and then return to its base station for charging. The base also serves as a WiFi-enabled link for receiving streaming data from the drone and relaying it to Vtrus’ cloud service.
Because Vtrus’ platform is designed exclusively for indoor use, it doesn’t have to satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on outdoor flights of unmanned aerial systems. The company has been demonstrating its technology in a “pilotless” pilot program, and the newly-reported funding round should help Vtrus get further down the path to commercialization.
Vtrus takes advantage of a computer vision technique called SLAM (Simultaneous Location and Mapping), which enables drones to build a high-fidelity map of their surroundings. Thirty times a second, the SLAM software keeps track of 300,000 depth points captured by an array of cameras and sensors.
The drone market is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020, according to research from Goldman Sachs.
Vtrus showed off its technology at September’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference and said it was seeking investment. The startup has put together a variety of videos showing how the drone does its work. Check ’em out … and watch the (indoor) skies: