Aeroprobing cooperates with Japanese companies to tap Southeast Asian market

Aeroprobing founder and president Lance Kao poses with an in-house drone. Credit: DIGITIMES

In a bid to produce drones in Japan for exports to the Southeast Asian market, drone software developer Aeroprobing entered cooperations with Japan-based drone application service provider Blue Innovation in 2019 and Japan-based electronics maker Sanwa Denshi in 2020, according to Lance Kao, Aeroprobing founder and president.

Under the cooperation, Aeroprobing has developed drone flight control software for Blue Innovation, while Sanwa produces the drones for Aeroprobing, Kao said.

According to Kao, several reasons drove Aeroprobing to choose Japan as a forward base into the Southeast Asian market. First, “made in Japan” has long been an indicator of good quality, and helps Aeroprobing to strengthen its bargaining power. Secondly, both Japan and Southeast Asia belong to CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership), exempting exports from customs duties.

With that in mind, Aeroprobing in June 2022 established a joint venture in Tokyo with a Japanese investment consulting company, Kao noted, adding that Aeroprobing also hopes to gradually enhance marketing in Taiwan.

As Japan has put much more R&D resources in robotics than in drones, Aeroprobing’s technological capability has become attractive to potential clients in Japan. Besides, Japan has become increasingly concerned with Chinese drones, giving Taiwanese companies a competitive advantage, Kao indicated.

Aeroprobing focuses on developing drone flight control software and cloud computing-based drone flight management software, Kao said, adding that Aeroprobing has used AWS (Amazon Web Services) to establish its private cloud. For drone hardware, such as motors, mechanical parts and battery cells, aeroprobing procures them from different sources, before integrating them with in-house software tailored to client’s flight missions, Kao noted.

Aeroprobing adopts a strategy of developing customized, application-specific drones that are produced in small volumes, Kao indicated. The positioning helps Aeroprobing with avoiding competition with large drone vendors, such as China’s Da-Jiang Innovations Science & Technology, due to market segmentation, Kao noted.

It is not difficult to put drones into flight, but it is relatively difficult to achieve a system integration level to ensure stable flight and to realize other functions, Kao said. For example, drones designed for warehouse inspection cannot be GPS-guided and have to be equipped with other guiding systems. Aeroprobing’s own indoor inspection solution has been adopted by Blue Innovation for retailers’ logistics, Kao noted.

Aeroprobing-developed drones have also been used to sprinkle pesticides in Indonesia through cooperation with local partners, Kao indicated, adding that the drones can precisely control the volumes of water and pesticides as well as avoid human chronic poisoning associated with manually spraying pesticides. Because individual farmers cannot afford such drones, target customers are outsourced farming teams, Kao said, adding that Aeroprobing has developed a software for simultaneously managing multiple sprinkling drones. Viewing that many Southeast Asian countries might not survey land efficiently in the past, Aeroprobing is also eyeing opportunities to develop drones for land surveillance, Kao noted.

In addition, Aeroprobing has developed a river inspection solution based on an in-house edge computing model with the solution enabling drones to recognize rivers and fly along them, Kao indicated. The edge computing model can also be used to recognize special features of land, monitor hydrological conditions and search for targets in case of disasters, Kao said. For hydrological monitoring in particular, drone images need to be specially processed to reach a resolution level of 1-3 meters, Kao noted. Compared with remote sensing satellites, drones have much smaller spatial coverage but incur much lower costs, Kao indicated.

Health Life Optics Tech, at the end of 2021, announced alliance with Aeroprobing specifically for combining its AI-based image processing technology with Aeroprobing’s drone solutions for application to precise inspection such as of operating conditions of PV modules.

Except pesticide sprinkling in Indonesia, most drone solutions are still in PoC (proof of concept) stage and many cooperative projects are in discussion at present, Kao noted.

With paid-in capital of NT$31.4 million (US$1.06 million), Aeroprobing’s operation has reached a break-even point, and hopes to seek more cooperation partners to expand business operation, Kao indicated

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