Henri Klemmer, CEO of Hepta Airborne speaks to us about the long-range autonomous drones and the Covid-19 pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Henri Klemmer: We are doing well. One of the fortunate sides of COVID-19 is the opportunity to have more time together with the family. Before COVID-19, my flight schedule was hectic. There were months where I was at home 4 days altogether. The rest of the time was spent on being on airplanes and meeting key customers.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Hepta Airborne.
Henri Klemmer: I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Hepta Airborne. My educational background is in power engineering. This led me to work for various utility companies as well as different international consultancy companies. My current career has been encapsulated by the energy sector and has evolved to include analyzing electricity infrastructures using different kinds of technologies such as satellites, helicopters, drones, etc… I also founded my own consultancy company providing different consultancy services for utilities. This background created the preliminary steps which would lead me on the path to creating Hepta Airborne with my fellow founders.
How does Hepta Airborne innovate?
Henri Klemmer: Hepta Airborne was Founded around 3 years ago by 3 co-founders. I am a guy with an energy sector background, so the approach to analyze a certain degree comes from my background. The other two co-founders are aerospace engineers that have experience in building drones and maintaining helicopters and aircrafts with different sensors etc… They are the brains behind the technology.
To summarise what we do in a nutshell, we are automating the analysis of power lines by helping drone companies scale in the industry space with automated analysis & inspection tools. In addition to drone data collection withdrawals, we use satellite data and play with this data in order to put it together. The most essential part is data analysis, which allows us to know where the customer comes from. While this process is all about data acquisition, the most crucial part is how we handle these terabytes of data acquired from the field.
We have our software product, and with that, we have a software team and data scientists who are trying to deploy machine learning as much as possible to speed up the analysis from airborne data. Our main goal is to automate the whole process by taking out the low-hanging fruit and turning it into a technology! We see ourselves as a data company and a technology provider, so instead of conducting the full length of the inspection, we try to provide for the utilities, inspection teams, and also other service providers.
We’re aiming to do in addition to digitizing the assets in the whole cycle to predict future scenarios that may take place to a degree. In a nutshell, the drone and helicopter data acquisition highlights the information which existed yesterday, and we’re slowly including humidity, soil information, and weather scenarios. These are additional information sources that help us simulate the world in a digital environment, so we can build a digital twin of the power lines and grid, meaning we can predict future scenarios. This remains to be our core focus, and in a few year’s time, we will start expanding our focus to radio waves, pipelines and forestry etc…
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Henri Klemmer: We experienced a temporary negative effect, which was caused by the delayed pilot projects and projects with international customers. However, the bigger picture is brighter – customers understand that by digitizing & automating their inspection procedures and electricity networks, they become less affected by biological viruses. Our value proposition fits into that angle, and the demand for our products increases in time.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Henri Klemmer: It’s about adoption for everyone. Being able to quickly change your day-to-day procedures by going for more digital & remote processes. Eventually, this means more scalability and efficiency. We have welcomed the challenge.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Henri Klemmer: As for the internal procedures, we did not have to build or implement any specific software. Coming from Estonia, the most digitized society globally, our day-to-day procedures were already digitized. The factor which we improved was the meeting’s rhythm, communication procedures, etc. All in all, I’d say we managed to adjust our team’s operational procedures within one week.
In regards to customers, it was somewhat a challenge at first, as our customers are large organizations, where meeting face to face is somewhat usual. We have improved our proprietary software to bring benefits for all the drone operators globally who have an interest in inspecting infrastructure or scaling to infrastructure verticals. Our software enables us to automatically detect failures, digitize infrastructure as a whole, and the software is supported by our strong team who remotely onboard & trains drone teams on how to conduct safe & efficient data acquisition missions.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Henri Klemmer: Software provides. There are many companies who use A.I. & build mL. models to automate the analysis of image data. We have a more holistic approach – we don’t just automate the analysis and detect elements, but we conclude with the full detection of all the failures with 100% quality guaranteed. In addition, we are not blindfolded to data collection. To build great detection models, one has to work hand-in-hand with quality data. We train and teach our partners to collect the highest quality data, which improves our model creation and level of automated processes exponentially.
We provide the whole game with significant benefits to speed and costs while maintaining the highest quality.
Your final thoughts?
Henri Klemmer: The truth is in the pudding. All the drone operators and infrastructure operators out there, we invite you to conduct a small and cost-efficient pilot project where we can show how our solutions work. We have conducted full-scale roll-outs to customers who have thousands of kilometers of power lines. We have scaled their inspection cycles down from 7 years to 2.5 years only.
One of the biggest misperceived concepts in the industry is that A.I. is here to replace everything. We in Hepta Airborne believe that A.I. is here to give a supporting hand, to give superpowers to the existing inspection teams.