Emesent, a drone autonomy spin-out from CSIRO’s Data61, has raised $3.5 million in venture capital to commercialise its first product Hovermap.

Main Sequence Ventures, which manages the CSIRO Innovation Fund, led the funding round, along with long-time Bechtel mining executive Andy Greig.

Developed by former researchers from Data61, Emesent’s Hovermap technology automates the collection of valuable data in underground areas too dangerous or difficult for people to survey or navigate, such as stopes or ore passes in mines. Drones installed with Hovermap can be deployed in GPS-denied environments without a human controller to create 3D maps, and record gas readings, videos and images.

Hovermap draws on a decade of research by CSIRO’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems group into drone autonomy and 3D LiDAR-based simultaneous localisation and mapping (3D SLAM) techniques.

“Hovermap enables the mining industry to safely inspect inaccessible areas of underground mines while improving the type and quality of data collected to unlock new insights,” Stefan Hrabar, co-founder and CEO of Emesent said.

“The data we gather improves a mine’s productivity and provides a better understanding of conditions underground, all without sending surveyors and miners into potentially hazardous areas.”

Before spinning out of CSIRO, Emesent established its leadership in this new category of automating industrial operations in the underground world. Last year, Hovermap enabled the world’s first fully autonomous beyond line-of-sight drone flight in an underground mine, 600 metres below the surface of Western Australia.

Emesent’s Hovermap system is already being used commercially for a variety of applications by early adopters in Australia, the US, Canada, China and Japan. A new program targeting the underground mining sector has now been rolled out, providing early access to Emesent’s mining-specific autonomy functions to selected participants.

“The investment will give us the opportunity to build out our team from seven to 25, and make Emesent a global leader in drone autonomy and automated underground data collection and analysis,” Hrabar said.

Queensland-based Emesent has also received support from CSIRO’s ON Accelerator program. Both Main Sequence Ventures – CSIRO Innovation Fund and ON are supported by the Federal Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA).

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