South African drone tech firm Aerobotics set for US push with key disruption expert hire

South African drone imagery and AI specialist Aerobotics has appointed disruption and innovation expert Stuart van der Veen as Chief Platform Officer.

Van der Veen will be based in the US, managing global partnerships in agriculture and affiliated industries. He joins Aerobotics from Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), where he was Head of Disruption and Innovation.

The appointment comes as part of Aerobotics’ plans for major expansion around the globe. Aerobotics, which is currently operating in 11 countries, said it is allocating significant resources focusing on the agriculture market in the United States, particularly California and Florida.

“This is the year of aerial imagery analytics, and we’d like to work with the world’s most forward and sustainable thinking organizations,” said van der Veen. “Agriculture is fast becoming a data driven industry. Engaging with precision farming and our technology means less damage to the environment, enhancing how resources like water are being used and contributing to food security around the world.”

According to Aerobotics, his career highlights included winning the Financial Times of London ‘The Banker Tech Projects Award for Fintech Partnerships,’ and bringing Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play Tech Centre to Africa for the first time .

At Nedbank, van der Veen created new market opportunities in strategic industries, including a financial services partnership with Aerobotics in agriculture. Together, they worked to better serve clients by garnering unique data-driven insights through tree crop aerial imagery analytics.

“I am proud and excited to join Aerobotics and help build on the incredible growth they have already been able to achieve,” said van der Veen. “Aerobotics’ technology and services are already providing farmers and the agriculture industry transformative information and insights, and I am excited to contribute to one of the best South African and global stories of our generation.”

Telstra’s drone tech strategy takes to the skies ahead of 5G rollout

Telstra is getting serious about using drone technology to boost its arsenal of various access technologies, developing and trialling new drone capabilities that have the potential to assist in disaster management scenarios using the telco’s mobile network.

The technology was on display at Telstra Vantage, where the Telstra Labs team displayed a drone swarm and a mobile ‘cell on wings’ demonstration using 4GX on the Telstra mobile network.

“Especially when you use a swarm of drones to find a lost child, the area covered is instantly so much larger than when you use only one drone,” said Telstra CTO Hakan Eriksson, noting that the potential impact of the technology would increase explosively once the 5G mobile network is deployed.

“[But] this works now, we’ve tested these and it’s operating,” he added.

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The drone swarm is a set of drones operated by a single pilot flying in formation and using vision capture tech to quickly and efficiently scope an area impacted by fire or flood.

As the technology and regulations mature, allowing for the use of multiple drones per pilot, it will become feasible to routinely deploy drone swarms to simultaneously cover and search a large area.

This, Eriksson said, could save lives in an emergency rescue situation, and time and money in less dramatic situations.

The ‘cell on wings’ is a mobile small cell fixed onto on a drone in order to temporarily boost mobile network coverage in a local area, which is particularly useful in emergency situations.

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The Telstra CTO explained that this can be done through a tethered backhaul, by wiring a network cable to the drone from the ground while it is flying, or via a wireless line of site extension, relaying the signal from another tower.

Richard van der Draay is in Melbourne as a guest of Telstra