VHive expands drone-driven digital twins to more industries, lands $25 in funding

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VHive, an Israeli startup that provides software to help commercial drones create digital twins, has raised $25 million in series B funding. The company is focused on software that improves site survey workflows, data analysis and report generation. Current clients include wireless telecommunications carriers, construction companies, and commercial insurance companies, such as Bechtel, Deutsche Telekom, Phoenix Tower International, and SBA.

VHive CEO and co-founder Yariv Geller told VentureBeat that he started the company with Tomer Daniel after seeing the manufacturing industry use digital twins to improve product designs. He realized there was a way that the combination of low-cost drones and better software could provide similar macro-level benefits for cell phone towers, construction sites, and any other sizeable physical asset.

A key differentiator of VHive’s software compared to existing drone platforms is its data flow and analytics to turn a monolithic 3D model of a cell tower or crane into a semantically tagged digital twin that represents individual objects, defects, and other relevant phenomena. . For example, a mobile wireless network operator (MNO) needs labels for assets like antennas and support equipment and for wear and tear like rust, frayed cables, and missing bolts.

Continuous logging can help engineers prioritize repair work for the most problematic site while keeping an eye on aging that needs to be corrected in the future. Additionally, VHive delivers information through a web application, reducing the need to install additional software.

Workflow automation

They started by focusing on the mobile industry, in which mobile network operators must conduct regular surveys of thousands of cell tower sites. The typical approach is to send a tower climber to climb the tower to check for problems. Some towers can reach 300 feet, which presents security concerns.

VHive software automates flight planning and data analysis for various commercial drones. A single drone can survey the site in a fraction of the time of a human and uses photogrammetry to convert 2D camera images into a 3D reconstruction. Operators can set the scale from a few centimeters to a millimeter, which provides better resolution, but with a longer time of flight.

This allows the telecommunications company to create an online portfolio of their telecommunications sites to improve the record-keeping process and compare what has been built with what was planned and what is listed in the asset management database. .

Analysis can also help improve existing equipment inventory which ensures teams show up with the right equipment for repairs, reducing repeat trips to pick up missing parts. Additionally, the survey can also help assess existing space to add or upgrade equipment. An engineer can look at the existing tower and compare the measurements and mounting angles of all the equipment.

Tower operators can also inspect the tower as part of maintenance and inventory the equipment installed on a given tower. Operators provide a real-estate hosting service for equipment installed and managed by MNOs. Geller said some inspections revealed a 40% discrepancy between what was listed in the contract and what was actually installed. An actual physical record can help build consensus between mobile network operators and tower operators when questions arise about what is actually installed.

Expansion into other industries

The actual side of data capture is pretty generic. The tricky part comes with customizing the process of translating raw physical data into useful digital twins for each industry. Geller said, “Each vertical has its own parsing and semantics, which requires a good, deep understanding that addresses the correct use case. Expanding into new industries requires a methodical approach in which you attack one vertical after another instead of trying to [to] create a digital twin solution that does it all.”

VHive expanded into crane inspection after construction giant Bechtel showed interest in the new workflow. In Bechtel’s case, they had to shut down a crane for a monthly site inspection, costing thousands of dollars in downtime and an extended site visit. Bechtel worked with VHive to develop a workflow that allows a drone to inspect the crane in about 20 minutes without lowering it to the ground. This reduced downtime and allowed site inspectors to review the 3D model from their office.

Geller said they’re also starting to support some workflows in the insurance industry, but this is still an early area for VHive. In the future, he hopes to replicate these same types of workflows in other industries, such as renewable energy and construction.

PSG led the $25 million Series B funding round with support from previous investors Octopus Ventures and the Telekom Innovation Pool. This brings the total funding to $36.5 million, including support from StageOne Ventures.

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