Zeitview, the company formerly known as DroneBase, announced today that it has raised $55 million to advance its aerial and ground data capture technology. Led by Valor Equity Partners with participation from Union Square Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Euclidean Capital, Energy Transition Ventures and Hearst Ventures, the tranche – bringing Zeitview’s war chest to $114 million – will be spent on product expansion, customer acquisition and ongoing recruiting efforts said CEO Dan Burton in an interview with todaybusinessupdates.com.
Zeitview was founded in 2014 with the aim of providing companies with a new resource: the sky. With a passion for drones and other advanced technology, Burton says he saw an opportunity to use airborne robotics and sensors to capture data about how assets — say, solar panels and turbines — change over time.
After serving in the military, Burton did a brief stint at Goldman Sachs and in 2014 made the leap to launch Zeitview. He personally claims to have flown the company’s first 100 or so drone missions.
“I was convinced that robotics would enable advanced inspections that were safer, faster, more accurate and less expensive than old-fashioned analog inspections,” Burton said via email. “For global energy and infrastructure customers, Zeitview provides state-of-the-art inspection software that improves asset performance and longevity while reducing operating costs.”
I haven’t checked Burton’s math – maybe not Zeitview’s solutions Actually may be less expensive than manual inspections, depending on how invasive the inspections are. But it is fair to say that it is more technologically advanced.
Using drones, Zeitview captures data – including images and thermal measurements – on infrastructure such as wind turbines and solar panels and processes that data through AI algorithms. The algorithms screen for anomalies such as damaged turbine blades and classify them, notifying customers of issues as they emerge.
Zeitview does business not only with asset owners, but also with investors, utilities and policymakers, to whom it sells inspection images and machine learning-driven insights. For example, Zeitview scans large-scale solar installations and rates them on a scale of one to three, with each letter representing an aspect of the sites’ condition; the reviews are then bundled into a premium reporting service.
Since its inception, Zeitview claims it has deployed drones to capture images of wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean, post-hurricane real estate complexes in Texas, and thermal data from utility-scale solar farms.
“We have expertise across asset classes and we support any way a customer wants to capture data: as a service around the world through our network, self-inspecting using our software or hybrid models,” said Burton. “We focus on reducing our customers’ operational and maintenance costs while providing safer, faster and more accurate answers.”
Drones may no longer be the buzzword of the moment, but investors continue to shower specialty drone companies, such as those with analytics components, with capital. According to a sourceVC investment in drone companies reached $7 billion in 199 deals by 2021, up from $2.4 billion in 2022.
Zeitview competes with suppliers such as PrecisionHawk, Skyspecs and Raptor Maps in the emerging drone services market. Other rivals include Prenav, which is developing a drone-based system that allows companies to remotely inspect infrastructure such as buildings and cell phone towers, and Saildrone, which operates a fleet of seafaring drones that collect data from the world’s oceans.
For its part, Zeitview, which has about 200 employees, claims its customer base includes “many of the leading renewable energy OEMs, as well as major asset owners and providers of operations and maintenance for wind and solar assets” – plus insurance, roofing and property management companies. “As a startup that enabled advanced inspection, we accelerated during the pandemic with robotics-based solutions that leveraged local operators and global software,” added Burton.
It must be said that Zeitview benefits from the strength of the wider aerial segment. Global market insights predicts that it will reach $25 billion by 2032, driven by technological advancements and innovation. As the report notes, aerial photography plays an “important”, very timely role in documenting the effects of climate change, protecting resources and – optimistically – reducing emissions, among many others.
“An increase in the incidence of natural disasters, such as floods, tropical cyclones, storm surges and wildfires, will increase the importance and demand for advanced aerial imaging solutions to assess damage caused by such events,” wrote the authors of Global Market Insights. .
Those thoughts echo those of Neal Dikeman of Energy Transition Ventures. He said by email:
“Air inspection is a fundamental requirement in the renewable energy and infrastructure industry, and Zeitview stands out as the only company capable of delivering this service globally in the built environment, renewable energy and utility infrastructure sectors,” said Burton. “Their commitment to reducing inspection costs for customers worldwide positions them as a leader in driving the energy transition market.”