Shenzhen-based Kuang-Chi Group is investing $5 million in SkyX Systems Corp., according to the drone tech startup’s founder and CEO Didi Horn. A former fighter pilot with the Israeli Air Force, Horn started SkyX in 2015 to help public and private companies monitor energy infrastructure from on high, using increasingly powerful drones and big data analytics.
Horn said, “Our model is about acquiring, analyzing and delivering critical data.” The company does not have plans to use its long-range drones to haul goods or people around, he confirmed.
SkyX has developed proprietary SkyOne drones that employ a fixed-wing design and helicopter-like features to take off and land on small charging stations set up in the fields alongside oil and gas pipelines. The stations shelter the drones from bad weather and theft while charging them.
SkyOne drones can fly long distances autonomously, leaping from station to station, beyond the line of sight of human operators wherever it is legal to do so. Using SkyX’s operating system, SkyOS, organizations can create easy-to-read maps and graphics from the data that their drones gather by scanning structures below.
The SkyOS system also can remotely dispatch fleets of SkyOne drones to survey specific points of interest or any areas that have shown signs of trouble in earlier flights. Horn claims that SkyX systems save energy industry businesses 70 to 90 percent of the budget they’d typically spend on monitoring and data using ground-based systems and manpower, and pilots in planes.
The company’s investors, Kuang-Chi Group, may not be a household name in the U.S., yet, but the Shenzhen-based conglomerate is known in China and the aerospace industry for its efforts in the new space race. The company’s Kuang-Chi Science division wants to bring people (and possibly payloads) to sub-orbital space by lifting them with a huge helium balloon attached to a pressurized capsule. The system is reminiscent of that in development by Tuscon, Arizona-based World View Enterprises.
Kuang-Chi Group also has established a $300 million venture fund to invest in entrepreneurs outside of China. This fund has established a presence in Tel Aviv to source deals. Besides SkyX, the early-stage venture arm of Kuang-Chi has also backed the voice analytics startup Beyond Verbal, computer vision developers EyeSight and video analytics firm AgentVi.
Given the $5 million investment, Horn said SkyX will begin rolling out its drones and services to more customers throughout North America this summer and fall. Its first two customers, which the startup did not have permission to name yet, are based in Western Canada and will commence using SkyX technology in July.