Donecle Acquires French Startup Dronetix
Donecle has strengthened its position in the aircraft drone inspection market by acquiring Dronetix, a French startup that has been developing an autonomous mapping drone for industrial assets.
Unlike many other drone systems being used in the aftermarket today, Dronetix’s Argos drone does not require preprogramming for specific object types and flying zones. Instead, it uses a patented indoor positioning system called Dronetix Light Track, which can be placed around an object to control the drone’s flight parameters. Safran has been using the Dronetix system for visual inspections within its turbojet production operations and maintenance plants.
According to Donecle, the acquisition will position it to extend its drone-based inspection capabilities to aircraft components, starting with engines and landing gear.
“This is an important milestone in Donecle’s growth,” says Donecle CEO Matthieu Claybrough. “Combining the assets and know-how of both companies will strengthen our offer and boost the development of future capabilities. Our goal remains unchanged: to offer our customers cost-saving solutions while improving traceability and safety.”
Donecle says the Argos drone will be upgraded with Donecle’s imaging technology and cloud connectivity by the end of the year. To strengthen the automatic analysis of both companies’ drones, they plan to merge their image datasets and artificial intelligence technologies.
“Donecle’s strength resides in the assessment of metal and composite painted surfaces, for defects such as paint, erosion, corrosion, etc.” says a spokesperson for Donecle. “Dronetix has algorithms for more specific use cases, such as detecting foreign object damage and scratches on non-painted metal surfaces. The datasets and algorithms are thus very complementary.”
According to Donecle, it intends to keep Dronetix’s light tracker positioning system, at least temporarily, since it is “a very interesting technology.” Dronetix’s system was previously only offered for sale, so Donecle says a key change will be that it is now available under a lease contract, similar to that of Donecle’s own drones.
Dronetix will continue to operate under its own brand as a subsidiary of Donecle. Its office will be moved from Paris to Toulouse so it can be closer to Donecle for improved efficiencies.
The acquisition is not Donecle’s only growth so far this year. In April, Polish MRO LOT Aircraft Maintenance Services (LOTAMS) signed a multi-year contract with Donecle to use its technology to enhance maintenance operations. Donecle says LOTAMS will be one of the first customers to take advantage of its new widebody and outdoor inspection capabilities.
Donecle has also launched fundraising efforts with the hopes of raising €5 million (approximately $5.3 million) by the end of the year. The funds will be used to launch its new IRIS-GVI drone solution and support research and development for Donecle’s plans to add capabilities for widebody aircraft, outdoor flight and 3D inspections.