Founded in 2011 and initially focused on the distribution of machines, the start-up Drone Volt has just won two contracts in Asia – and with that, the start-up believes to be on the way to succeed: instead of deriving most of its business from the distribution of drones, it is now turning to the manufacture and sale of its own devices.
The French aeronautics manufacturer specializing in professional drones, announced two new contracts this summer which point to a good start in Asia.
Last week, the company founded in 2011 announced a contract with Electricity of Vietnam, the largest energy supplier in the country.
The latter bets on the Altura Zenith system, a drone equipped with a Pensar camera, equipped with artificial intelligence capacity, to monitor the equipment (transformers, circuit breakers, capacitors and so forth) of its electrical network, inking another contract, this time with the Thai pollution control department, where the Altura Zenith drone will be equipped with a camera and a Honeywell chemical sensor to measure air pollution.
For Drone Volt president Olivier Gualdoni, these contracts give substance to the many ongoing negotiations and confirm the company’s ambition to become one of the main players in the professional drone: Drone Volt claims to be in the running for about 65 tenders or live negotiations with government agencies and key accounts.
In the highly competitive world of the drone, the start-up, based in Villepinte, has up until now primarily placed the bulk of its activity in the distribution of drones (including those of the Chinese manufacturer DJI).
Introduced on the stock market in March 2015 and now listed on the Euronext market, the company experienced a drop in sales on the distribution side in the first half of the year, cooling the share price.
Now, Drone Volt has developed a complete range of commercial drones capable of carrying payloads ranging from 5 to more than 20 kg, the plan being to build on strength and a certain simplicity.
“Our drones must have exceptional rigidity, so that if they fall, they can be repaired in less than an hour to fly again,” says Olivier Gualdoni told Les Echoes in the assembly workshop of Villepinte.
The company delivered its first drone in the summer of 2017 and has now produced since about sixty of the aerial machines.
The master-stroke of the young company, which closed in June a new fundraising of 2.15 million and a financing of 8 million euros, was the acquisition in 2017 of the Dutch manufacturer Aerial Group (Aerialtronics), who develop advanced end-to-end aerial data capture solutions.
For Olivier Gualdoni, there is no doubt that drones will revolutionize many trades, and not just in all surveillance and security functions. He gives as an example the possibility of using drones equipped with a Karcher to clean the facades of buildings. Experiments have already taken place.
But for the CEO of the start-up, the weak link in the development of the drone is the training of pilots.
“A drone mission must be prepared with the same rigor as a helicopter mission,” he insists, hence the creation of the Drone Volt Academy, last May forging a framework agreement with French army, which is committed to the acquisition of drones and the training of remote pilots.
Of the Thailand contract, Gualdoni says, “This contract is highly symbolic in 2 titles. On the one hand, it allows the Drone Volt group to be referenced by a new government agency that could soon deploy this solution on a large scale.
On the other hand, it demonstrates the ability of Drone Volt to integrate new teams and the complementarity of the solutions it offers to its customers.”
In 2017, the company reported a turnover of 7.8 million euros with 46 employees including twenty development engineers, compared with a turnover of 1.7 million euros and 6 employees in 2014.
Drone Volt is aiming for a balance of gross operating income in 2019 and an increase in margins as the share of its revenue generated by the manufacture of machinery increases.
A version of this article first appeared in French on Les Echoes.