Today Percepto, creators of award-winning autonomous robotics technology, announced its upcoming deployment of hundreds of drone-in-a-box (DIB) systems to support the largest power company in the United States, Florida Power & Light (FPL). This arrangement constitutes the largest commercial autonomous drone project in the world. Through it, the two pioneers intend to transform critical infrastructure resiliency for FPL’s 11 million customers.
DIB systems involve autonomous drones that launch from and return to networked landing boxes. These solutions allow organizations to pre-stage equipment onsite for scheduled or on demand remote autonomous operations. They also automate workflows and provide large volumes of high resolution data in unparalleled quantities.
During Phase One of this project, which will occur later this year, FPL will introduce 13 Percepto DIBs across the West Palm Beach area to monitor substations and power distribution grids. Over the next five to seven years, during follow-on phases, FPL will similarly inject hundreds of Percepto drones, through a singular network, across the entire Sunshine State.
Foundation of Success
This latest effort builds on years of prior collaborations between FPL and the Israel-based autonomous industrial inspection tech leader. FPL initially launched Percepto’s DIB technology for research and development (R&D) in 2018. At the time, FPL was the first utility to integrate autonomous drones into state-wide utility site surveillance and inspections.
Based on that initial project’s successes and safety record, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued FPL the first-of-its-kind nationwide beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) waiver. Current FAA rules require commercial drone operators to fly their aircraft within their visual line of sight. This ground-breaking approval enabled FPL to fly Percepto drones BVLOS at FPL-owned or serviced sites.
In November 2020, Percepto rolled out its AIM (Autonomous Inspection and Monitoring) DIB solution, the first-ever enterprise solution for on-site autonomous robot fleet management. With Percepto AIM, drones can be operated remotely to ensure they work in sync, providing maximum coverage at the sites they monitor. AIM also automatically generates relevant business insights for stakeholders and decision-makers through advanced data collection and data management features.
In 2021, TIME added Percepto to its Best 100 Inventions list. Also in 2021, CB Insights listed it on its AI 100 List as one of the Most Innovative Artificial Intelligence Startups. The company also received the prestigious Edison Gold Award and Frost & Sullivan Global Enabling Technology Leadership Award.
The company’s reach also grew. Fortune 500 customers across six continents, including Florida Power & Light, Delek US, Koch Fertilizer, ICL Dead Sea Works, and Verizon, added Percepto’s trusted tools to their operations.
Just before this latest reveal with FPL, Percepto announced AIM 2022. This improved product includes a new drone (in a box) called Air Mobile, a compact and light-weight drone with high deployment flexibility. AIM and Air Mobile use advanced machine learning and AI for end-to-end autonomous inspections and monitoring. Percepto AIM assesses risk, minimizes downtime, drives efficiency, increases safety and reduces operational costs.
FPL now plans to leverage the Percepto DIB portfolio, alongside other robots and visual sensors, for even wider scale real world inspections and disaster management efforts.
Bigger and Better
FPL has already been maintaining reliable service for its customers, most of whom are residential, using Percepto’s autonomous drones for regular and routine inspections. These operations have boosted FPL’s productivity through efficient and effective daily inspections, bolstered security and helped ensure FPL’s environmental compliance.
And when disaster struck, Percepto drones aided FPL in its recovery efforts. On average, two hurricanes impact Florida each year. These cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Hundreds of thousands of customers lose power. For example, approximately 160,000 households lost power due to hurricanes in 2019. More than half a million people lost power after Hurricane Sally ripped through the US Gulf Coast in 2020.
According to Percepto Chief Commercial Officer Ariel Avitan, Percepto’s DIB made a huge difference because it was the first to pass Category Level 5 hurricane testing at wind speeds of up to 155 mph. Once the storm passed, its autonomous drones immediately assessed damage to infrastructure. This allowed crews to more quickly assess conditions on the ground and deploy maintenance teams where they were needed most, to help get power back on sooner.
Dor Abuhasira, Percepto CEO, explained, “With our drones, FPL has the ability to deploy before a disaster to map everything beforehand. Post-disaster, FPL uses our drones and AIM software to detect anomalies and risks. This allows them to spot problems in real time, using up-to-date maps with specific locations. This permits personnel to know where to go, how to prioritize manpower and what needs to be done in a much more effective way than paper maps and manual searches could ever do.”
This latest deal for a mass deployment of autonomous drones between Percepto and FPL kicks things up a notch. Percepto’s Chief Commercial Officer Ariel Avitan, explained, “Our new arrangement with FPL is bigger and better. FPL will be the only power generation company with the largest group of multiple networked DIB systems on one grid,” he said. “It will also be the first operation using autonomous drones BVLOS in an urban setting for infrastructure inspection. It will involve one-to-many (one remote pilot to many drones) highly automated flights over people. This is the ultimate use of highly automated drones in support of critical infrastructure.”
According to Abuhasira, “FPL’s visionary approach in adopting the latest drone technology will play a critical role in the electric grid of the future.” He continued, “We look forward to continuing our long and productive relationship with FPL to help ensure that Florida’s electrical infrastructure is constantly monitored, providing residents with more reliable infrastructure, with power back online faster after outages. Percepto is thrilled its drones will help ensure vital infrastructure reliability to FPL’s customers.”