With seed funding secured, Skyqraft intends to take its AI-powered inspection drones to new heights.

Swedish start-up Skyqraft had an awesome begin to 2021 with the announcement of $2.2m seed funding led by Subvenio Invest. This funding will assist furtherer growth of Skyqraft’s powerline inspection system, which makes use of drones and synthetic intelligence (AI).

Right now, Skyqraft is concentrating on this device at the US and European markets. “Our mission is to become the leading powerline issue detection system globally, enabling our customers to conduct smarter and safer powerline inspections in a more cost-efficient and environmentally sustainable way,” mentioned co-founder Sakina Turab Ali.

How it really works

Skyqraft makes use of pc imaginative and prescient expertise to analyse photographs captured from the air. “The images are focused on powerline poles, crossarms, insulators and other objects. Skyqraft detects these objects and marks them on each image,” defined Turab Ali. “We also detect real-world issues like fallen trees, leaning trees, damaged insulators and missing protective weather hats.”

What the AI-driven system detects is then introduced through a map interface primarily based on Google’s satellite tv for pc photographs. “This gives the end user the feeling of a Google Street View system based on images from their own powerlines taken from drones or helicopters,” mentioned Turab Ali.

She mentioned the software program behind the system is scalable for terabytes of photographs. The machine studying factor kicks in after the drone has landed and pictures are uploaded to Skyqraft servers. They are analysed in batch mode on trendy GPU servers.

As nicely as curiosity from buyers, Skyqraft has courted some early shoppers, together with the three largest utility corporations in Sweden. The firm is negotiating additional contracts, together with main offers with two international companions. It’s additionally planning a sequence of large-scale US pilots this 12 months with Spanish multinational Iberdrola.

The founders

Turab Ali leads this enlargement as chief progress officer, bringing her expertise launching services and products globally to her personal firm. “Before my start-up, I worked as a marketing manager at Truecaller where I was a part of growing the users from 30,000 to 100m,” she mentioned.

Her fellow co-founders are David Almoroth, CEO at Skyqraft, and Umar Chughtai, the firm’s CTO.

Aerospace engineering graduate Chughtai labored for a few years with drones and machine studying at the robotics lab in the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Almoroth’s background is in software program growth, with newer expertise in machine studying.

This isn’t Almoroth’s first start-up. As CTO of gaming firm MuchDifferent, he labored on a massively scalable recreation server that noticed the firm attain a Guinness World Record for largest on-line first-person shooter battle. Crucially, Almoroth additionally has expertise working for powerline corporations equivalent to Swedish multinational Vattenfall and Germany-headquartered Eon.

Challenges and alternatives

Seed funding will assist Skyqraft hone the detection options and accuracy inside its system whereas pursuing its progress objectives in Europe and the US. This spherical included participation from Antler, Next Human Ventures and a few angel buyers. “In a start-up, we are always looking for investments and we think in about 18 months we look to raise our next funding round,” mentioned Turab Ali.

She admits that elevating funding is difficult, requiring a whole lot of effort and focus, whereas recruiting the proper expertise to bolster the workforce whereas looking for funding has additionally been difficult. Long gross sales cycles are additionally a excessive hurdle when coping with utility corporations. “[They] take a lot of time in making decisions to move into something that is so advanced compared to the traditional methods they use with helicopters and people on the ground to inspect their grids.”

But Turab Ali doesn’t shrink away from a problem and believes entrepreneurs should “learn to handle discomfort”.

‘It is actually other people’s perceptions that hold you from putting out by yourself slightly than the concern of the unknown’
– SAKINA TURAB ALI

“Starting a company means doing things that put you in uneasy situations. Just accept doing things that are uncomfortable by asking for help and advice. Eventually, any potential awkwardness will roll off your back,” she mentioned.

The Sri Lankan entrepreneur is aware of this from expertise. “I moved to Sweden about eight years ago. My Swedish is not perfect but I am great at sales. Every customer call is pretty uncomfortable for me, but I always make sure I start the conversation by telling them about my language skills.”

This feeds into Turab Ali’s different nugget of recommendation for entrepreneurs: “Overcome your fear of failure. Many people hesitate to do something because they’re afraid of failing. Don’t fear to take an opportunity. Remember that it’s possible to recover from even the worst situations and that often it is actually other people’s perceptions that keep you from striking out on your own rather than the fear of the unknown. Take risks and learn. Learning is the only way to make intelligent decisions next time.”

Fortunately for Turab Ali, she has discovered herself in a supportive atmosphere wherein she will be able to be taught, attempt to, certainly, fail. “The biggest opportunity for start-up entrepreneurs in Sweden is that the market here is welcoming and supports innovative ideas,” she mentioned. “That, in combination with the fact that Sweden is a relatively small market, means it is perfect to test new ideas on a local scale and later scale globally if the product has been received well.”

She additionally complimented Sweden’s efforts on gender equality, and the assist of the start-up neighborhood. “I love how one start-up helps another through their networks, mentors and advice. It gives us a better understanding of our product and helps us tackle challenges while we build our start-up.”

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