Percepto drone

This is the largest commercial autonomous drone project in the world and the first using such drones in an urban setting for infrastructure checks.

By Brian Blum, Israel21c

Hurricanes may have met their match as Israeli startup Percepto rolls out its “Drone-in-a-Box” at Florida Power & Light (FPL), the state’s largest electric utility serving 11 million customers.

Percepto’s autonomous drones are intended to monitor FPL’s power plants, making sure any damage is quickly spotted – especially following the state’s frequent hurricanes. During Hurricane Dorian in 2019, FPL reported $274 million in damages, leaving 160,000 customers in the dark.

This is the largest commercial autonomous drone project in the world. It’s also the first operation using autonomous drones within an urban setting for infrastructure inspection.

Modi’in-based Percepto has been working with FPL since 2018 as part of its push to comply with emerging US aviation regulations.

The Florida drones will be coordinated on Percepto’s Autonomous Inspection and Monitoring (AIM) platform, which allows drones to be operated remotely to ensure they work together in sync.

Phase one of the project will see 13 Drone-in-a-Box installations introduced to the West Palm Beach area over the coming year. FPL’s long-term plan is to introduce hundreds of Percepto drones over the next five years.

Percepto’s drones were certified in 2020 at Florida International University’s “Wall of Wind” – a wind tunnel simulation facility that subjected the unmanned aerial vehicles to gusts of over 150 miles per hour. The Drone-in-a-Box solution was the first autonomous UAV to pass Level 5 hurricane testing.

Percepto’s electric battery-powered drones can fly for 40 minutes between charges at a height of 130 feet (high enough to avoid power poles) and are equipped with day and nighttime camera systems, using artificial intelligence to identify malfunctions and safety risks.

The drones fly over a preprogrammed route and return to a base station (the “box” in Drone-in-a-Box) to download data and recharge. Aerial insights can also be streamed live.

“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 Chief Commercial Officer Ariel Avitan said.

Percepto’s AIM platform made TIME magazine’s “100 best inventions of 2021” list. The company’s solutions are used by Fortune 500 customers on six continents, the company says, including Delek U.S., Koch Fertilizer, ICL Dead Sea Works and Verizon. Italy’s Enel gas and electricity utility is also a client.