Auterion, a startup that offers a drone operating system built on top of the popular PX4 open source software, has landed $10 million in seed funding. Backing the round is Lakestar, Mosaic Ventures, Costanoa Ventures, and Tectonic Ventures.
The young Swiss company says the injection of cash will be used to work closely with the wider PX4 community to further develop the open source code, and to bring the technology to more enterprise customers in the form of the Auterion platform.
Soft-launched earlier this year, Auterion has created a fully-managed operating system for commercial drones and in turn wants to help solve the interoperability problem between drones and services in which there is currently no unifying standard. Getting the industry to come together around a single standard would also help various companies in the drone ecosystem compete better with DJI, which leads the market by a long stretch.
“The commercial drone industry is fragmented,” Auterion co-founder and co-CEO Kevin Sartori tells me. “Satisfying these heterogeneous commercial applications will inevitably demand a broad portfolio of resources and talents to deliver complex vertical solutions. Such complex and complete solutions are difficult for a single vendor to successfully build and deliver. Auterion builds the open infrastructure (operating system) so that suppliers, manufacturers, and service companies can respond the demand in the market and build their product and services on top of global standards.”
A drone operating system runs on the embedded flight controller and on a Linux computer on board of the vehicle. The flight controller takes care of the flight performance and payloads (position, attitude, camera control) whereas the more performing Linux computer can run custom third-party apps like obstacle avoidance, flight performance analytics, and take care of data streaming over LTE. Auterion’s operating system takes care of both and is able to remotely provide software updates to the embedded flight controller and Linux computer.
Meanwhile, to enable the highest possible levels of integration between products, Auterion says it works in close collaboration with other Dronecode members (the body maintaining open source drone software), including 3D Robotics, Airmap, ARM, Intel, NXP, Sony, STMicroelectronics, and Trimble. Auterion is also the largest contributor to the PX4 ecosystem.
Noteworthy is Auterion’s other co-founder, Lorenz Meier. He is the creator of the most widely used open source standards in the drone industry (PX4, Pixhawk, MavLink, and QGC) and was named an MIT Innovator in 2017.
“Open source software on its own is difficult to adopt and there’s no guarantee of functionality,” explains Sartori, likening Auterion’s mission to that of Red Hat. “Auterion packages the open source code into a managed and long-time supported distribution that makes it easy to use for enterprises. We also offer all the supporting services (cloud analytics, predictive maintenance, unmanned traffic management) as a turnkey solution”.
To that end, Sartori says Auterion’s typical customers are drone service providers that buy and maintain a drone fleet to offer services to large enterprises and Fortune 500 companies, along with large enterprises that want to offer that service internally within a business unit (e.g. utility companies, police etc). The company also targets drone OEMs that build drones for commercial applications.