Startup Spotlight: Exyn Technologies’ exploratory drones
Philadelphia-based Exyn Technologies was founded in 2014 with the purpose of bringing to the market its autonomous, data collecting drones.
The company was formed out of the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Laboratory, a robotics research program focusing on automation, sensing and perception, all focuses in Exyn’s own work.
Exyn’s Autonomous Aerial Robots (A3Rs) are intended to acquire data about difficult to access places. Example use cases include the 3D mapping of underground mines and tunnels or the examination of construction sites. They are capable of operating without the assistance of either a pilot or GPS, even without prior information about the surrounding environment. This is achieved in part thanks to an array of on-board sensors including LIDAR, cameras and inertial sensors.
Raffi Jabrayan has just been appointed Director of Markets and Industries for Exyn, tasked, the company says, with spearheading Exyn’s global expansion. An alumnus of Toronto, Canada-based global mining company Dundee Precious Metals, he has experience of technology implementation in the mining sector.
“Like many traditional sectors, mining has not historically been quick to adopt new technologies—but I believe Exyn will change all that,” says Jabrayan. “Never before have we been able to deploy autonomous aerial robots in completely unknown underground environments, and have them come back to us with accurate, comprehensive mapping. Exyn’s robots relieve the heavy burden of countless man hours, dollars, and risk of traditional surveying while keeping human miners safer.”
Drones are guided by the company’s exynAI software, which allows for varying amounts of autonomy and pilot control dependant on the situation. Exyn announced the commercial availability of its drones in February.
The company raised $16mn in a Series A funding round back in July, taking total funds raised to over $20mn. The Series A was led by investment firm Centricus, with participation from the likes of the investment arm of Yamaha Motors.
(Image: Exyn Technologies)
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”