With support from Innovation Norway, Sevendof is developing a network of automatic drones that are able to cover large distances and carry out everything from inspections to rescue searches. The goal is to be able to offer tailor-made drone services – without having people in the field.
Drone systems that make flights over longer distances often have a low degree of autonomy, and are largely based on the operator’s visual assessments during flight. With Sevendof’s new long-range drone, operations that have previously required manned helicopters or drones controlled by people in the field can now be automated.
With the help of an advanced sensor pack, the drone is able to assess its surroundings and conduct automatic flights.
“In practice, this means that you have a drone that flies automatically. It is so reliable that drone operations can be fully automated. The flight itself is automatically planned according to the customer’s order, and the implementation is monitored from a control room. Even though the drone is practically flying itself, there is always a human responsible for each flight”, says Per Magnus Veiland, General Manager of Sevendof.
Wouldn’t have existed without Innovation Norway
The Trondheim-based company has collaborated with Innovation Norway over several years. Veiland explains that the support has been extremely important in realising the project. In addition to capital support, Innovation Norway has put the company in contact with important partners and investors, and contributed to knowledge about relevant markets.
“We have experienced Innovation Norway as a solid support and sparring partner, and we have received good input regarding our business model. In addition, the support from Innovation Norway has served as a stamp of quality in relation to other companies and investors in the market. This has been crucial for our establishment as a company”, says Veiland.
They have received establishment and mentor grants, grants for innovation contracts, support through the environmental technology scheme, and received capital in the form of loans from Innovation Norway. As recently as 2020, they received NOK 3.6 million in funding through the environmental technology scheme.
The company is also the main partner in a Eurostars project together with Visimind AB and SINTEF, supported through the Research Council of Norway.
Investing in drone networks
Built as an industrial workhorse with a payload of up to seven kilograms, the Sevendof drone is designed to perform a variety of missions. It is equipped with a hybrid motor that gives it a range of up to 200 kilometres. In combination with drone stations that provide support for automatic charging and refuelling, these drones are capable of covering large areas.
“The applicability of the technology allows the same drone to serve a variety of purposes. It works just as well inspecting critical infrastructure such as power lines, the railway network, communication towers and wind turbines, but also for carrying out emergency response work in connection with searches in the mountains, rescue work or fires in buildings”, says Veiland.
This means that actors can share the same drone systems when using Sevendof drone services.
User-friendly drone services
Over the past couple of years, the company has been working on developing a service platform for the drone system. In collaboration with the power grid companies Tensio TS, Elvia, Skagerak Nett and BKK Nett, they have developed a service for the automatic inspection of power lines. The service enables a power grid company to order power line inspection through an Application Programming Interface (API), and have the operation carried out automatically using drone systems stationed in the field.
“The goal is to offer drone services within a wide range of industries and emergency response work, and that different actors can order individual operations from us. That is why we have partners who allow us to deliver different services to our end users, similar to how a smartphone has a variety of applications from different developers”, says Veiland.
Major environmental benefits
The drones will be able to replace a significant proportion of helicopters, but also enable drone inspections where helicopter operations are not possible. Compared to the current helicopter power line inspection system, Sevendof’s drone system will reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 90 percent, according to Sevendof’s own analyses.
“The environmental benefits of this project have been decisive regarding some of the support they have received. Such operations will ensure reduced noise and a lower carbon footprint in the production and operation of the drones”, says Roger Hatling, finance adviser at Innovation Norway.
He has been following the project for several years and praises the team at Sevendof for their high technological expertise and good market understanding.
“It is incredibly exciting that a fully fledged technology company also thinks about user participation and user-friendliness at such an early stage in the process. They have clearly understood what the market needs. In addition, the business model, the product and the service are well suited for scaling in the market, and are therefore suitable for an international market”, says Hatling.