robots cute rolling rovers

DroneDeploy to acquire Rocos in play to accelerate job site automation

DroneDeploy has been raking in a lot of investor capital as of late, and now we know what DroneDeploy is doing with some of it. The San Francisco-based software startup announced on Tuesday that it has acquired Rocos, a New Zealand-based robotics software company.

The move signals that DroneDeploy is looking to further automate more aspects of the workplace than just the workflows of aerial mapping missions using drones. With the Rocos acquistion, DroneDeploy is taking charge of on-the-ground robots too.

“The acquisition will enable DroneDeploy customers in construction, energy, agriculture, and more to deploy and orchestrate both aerial and ground robots on their job sites,” according to a preparedstatement from DroneDeploy. “This acquisition will make physical workflow automation possible, creating more efficient and safer workplaces.”

Rocos is known for its cloud platform designed to help customers build and manage your robot operations in terms of allowing you to connect, monitor and control your fleet. With Rocos, your fleet could be anything from rolling rovers to the wildly creative robots build by Boston Dynamics. Interestingly, Boston Dymanics already uses another piece of DroneDeploy tech — DroneDeploy’s 360 Walkthrough — which uses the workflow for automating 360 video-based construction documentation. You’re probably familiar with Boston Dynamics by way of its creepy cool parkour robot.

Boston Dynamics Rocos
A Boston Dynamics robot on Rocos software.

DroneDeploy is largely considered the market share leader in the drone software market. Now, with the extension to on-the-ground robots with Rocos’ automation engine, workers will soon be able to establish automated routines within the platform from both the air and the ground. 

The news comes at a time that — amidst a labor shortage, fear of sending humans into some jobs due to lack of social distancing and other COVID-related issues — people are finally becoming more accepting of robots doing work.

“Companies are undergoing a digital transformation accelerated by challenges surrounding labor shortages and COVID-driven remote operations. As a result, the market demand for automatic site documentation and digital twins has soared,” said Mike Winn, CEO and co-founder of DroneDeploy, in a prepared statement. “With the Rocos acquisition, we are enabling our customers to automate ground-level data capture, moving several steps closer to a complete automation solution.”

Why DroneDeploy and Rocos could be a perfect pair

So how will DroneDeploy’s acquisition of Rocos extend to on-the-ground robots? Take for example, the work of a solar technician and how their job could be augmented. They could program a drone to fly over a solar power plant and identify thermal hotspots. Then, they might automatically activate ground robots to walk under the hotspot to identify the exact problem – no human intervention needed. Theoretically the whole process would save time, resources and human labor.

DroneDeploy says it has already begun integrating Rocos’ robotic control with its indoor data processing technology to deliver autonomous 360 Walkthrough and inspection at scale.

“A few years ago, drones made the leap from hobbyist toys to enterprise tools. Now, ground robotics is on a similar trajectory,” said David Inggs, former CEO and co-founder of Rocos, now DroneDeploy’s Head of Ground Robotics. “With the addition of Rocos’ ground robotics technology, DroneDeploy can now automate critical data workflows across both air and ground use cases, enabling greater safety and efficiency for the whole worksite.”

Some of the DroneDeploy team. Image courtesy of DroneDeploy.

What to expect in the future from DroneDeploy

DroneDeploy will launch the new software offerings out of its Rocos acquisition at its annual DroneDeploy Conference this October.

This year’s Drone Deploy Conference 2021 will be held virtually from Oct. 19-20. Tickets are $39 if purchased before Aug. 15.

Earlier this year, DroneDeploy announced a $50 million Series E funding round, resulting in $142 million of total fundraising to date (and the most for any drone data company). The company said it would use that money for growth beyond just drones (hence the Rocos acquisition makes sense), as well as a push into European markets.

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