Specialty Computer Hardware, Towers & Infrastructure
San Carlos, CA
PRENAV has created a commercial drone system capable of precise, automated navigation. It can fly within centimeters of tall, fragile, vertical structures like cell towers.
This ability allows it to capture detailed imagery and 3D reconstruction of industrial assets, from worn out nuts and bolts to potential fault points.
PRENAV’s patent-pending navigation system consists of a guidance robot on the ground, working in coordination with an aerial robot that can fly close to structures.
Before flight begins, the guidance robot scans the environment to build a map, then tracks and shares position updates with the drone, keeping it on course even when dealing with external factors such as wind and weather.
The system is operated via an intuitive touchscreen interface and requires no manual piloting skills, making it accessible to climbers, technicians, and anyone who is working to inspect infrastructure.
PRENAV is solving a major pain point:
Historically, reconnaissance of this type has required dangerous work from humans, and the output has been imperfect.
Hypothetically, ordinary drones could be useful for such projects, but they’re too difficult to maneuver.
Most drones are equipped with GPS — but that only allows, at best, for a foot or two of precision. That’s not precise enough to fly near a sensitive or dangerous piece of equipment.
In contrast, the PRENAV system uses “Lidar,” which is a laser-based sensor system.
Here’s how it works in 6 steps:
Before launching the drone, a guidance robot on the ground scans the structure to build a map of the environment.
A 3D flight path is automatically generated to get full coverage of the structure.
The drone is guided along the 3D flight path with centimeter-level precision, and takes photos at specific locations.
Photos are synced to the PRENAV cloud processing engine.
Images are assembled into a detailed 3D reconstruction of the asset.
Image classification and machine learning algorithms generate insights and reports for customers.
In the past, this level of control and precision has only been achieved in indoor research labs using motion capture systems that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
PRENAV’s first product is targeting the $60 billion global audit and inspections market for vertical structures, beginning with cell phone towers.
Future potential customers include wind turbine operators (including early customer Senvion) as well as industrial companies that oversee everything from bridges and dams to massive oil rigs.
According to PRENAV, customers save an average of $500 per inspection using its system.
At first blush, the company’s drone system seems to mesh well with the new proposed rules from the FAA, which is in charge of drones in the United States. As PRENAV has written:
“PRENAV supports the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) issued by the FAA back in February 2015. By removing the requirement to have a certified pilot in command of the aircraft, drones can be used by a much broader range of people, namely the existing industry of climbers, technicians, and anyone who is inspecting or maintaining industrial assets. Further, the rules focus on drones that fly within line of sight of the operator, which aligns well with the applications PRENAV is targeting with our system.”
With rulemaking on drones becoming more clear in the U.S., venture funding has started flowing into drone-focused startups. Through mid-June, about $210 million had already been invested into drone startups this year.
Nathan Schuett – Founder & CEO
Nathan founded PRENAV in October 2013 with Asa Hammond. At the time, they were working together on mechatronic camera systems and computer vision applications for Google.
For Google, Nathan and Asa were tasked with building a motorized camera rig that would pan around customers in shopping malls and create a slow motion video.
They considered using a drone to get the footage, but there was no suitable technology to define precise flight paths for close quarters operation. So PRENAV was born.
Previously, Nathan worked in product and marketing for such companies as Lolapps, EA and Microsoft.
Nathan has a BA from Stanford with honors, where he rowed crew for 4 years.
Asa Hammond – Founder & CTO
Prior to founding PRENAV, Asa developed the robotic motion control systems for Bot and Dolly. These technology systems were used to shoot the Oscar-winning movie Gravity, and were later acquired by Google.
Previously, Asa had worked as a computer graphics supervisor for such movies as Hellboy, Sin City, Superman Returns, and Spiderman.
A syndicated drone venture fund under the AngelList umbrella that specifically invests in commercial drone start-ups.
Chief Software Architect at Oculus VR, which was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. Previously, co-founder and CTO of Scaleform, the #1 user interface technology provider in the video game market, which was acquired by Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK) in March 2011.
Pejman Mar Ventures
Early-stage venture fund founded by Pejman Nozad and Mar Hershenson. Its co-founders have seeded early-stage tech start-ups such as Dropbox, Lending Club, and Zoosk.
Co-founder of Skype and investor in multiple drone companies.