Business flying high for industry disruptor

A young software company is extending the drone industry’s scope and is used in more than 100 countries across 7000 sites, while striking partnerships with some of the industry’s biggest players.

Nestled in Sydney’s Australian Technology Park is a vibrant hub for more than 70 startup businesses.

Cicada Innovations is a ‘super-incubator’, a space offering entrepreneurs facilities and mentorship programs to help grow their startups.

Named Global Incubator of the Year in 2014, startups taken under Cicada’s wing have seen a collective of $500 million in revenue since 2006.

Among their alumni is Propeller Aero, a drone software program which simplifies the process of surveying.

Rory San Miguel
In the business's early days, co-founder Rory San Miguel recevied support from Cicada Innovations. (Supplied.)
Co-founders Rory San Miguel and Francis Vierboom believe timing was crucial when they considered how drones could be applied in traditional methods of surveying.

“We thought there was a bigger opportunity to help businesses with drones, and we zoned in on the mapping and modelling side of things quickly,” Mr San Miguel said.

“It was obvious the mines, and quarries, and the construction sites were the ones that had the big burning desire for the big topographic information, so we quickly started focusing our product and development on those types of customers.”

“That led us to this solution, which is a very simple way to interact with what is typically clunky data. 

The platform works by taking lots of images from drones, which end up overlapping each other to eventually develop into big stitched maps and models appearing in 3D.

Propeller Aero
The Propeller Aero platform displays work sites in 3D. (Supplied.)
With help from their AeroPoints technology, the maps and models generated are accurate to the centimetre.

To date, they have been able to raise just over $5 million, and currently serve clients ranging from BHP to Veolia and Holcim in the mining, landfill and quarry industries.

Over the last financial year, Mr San Miguel said the business’ revenue grew tenfold.

In addition to the huge growth, the startup has also struck a deal with leading drone company DJI to offer bundles to customers, which includes a drone with AeroPoints and the Propeller software platform.

AeroPoints are used for the Propeller Aero platform.
The Propeller platform uses AeroPoints to form accurate maps. (Supplied.)
“There's a common theory that partnerships are where young businesses go to die, and the graveyard of partnerships is vast,” he said.

"But for us, it means fitting in and distributing our products swiftly, and it turns out that the companies that have done that really well all have big distribution strategies and channel strategies.”

Today he still credits the early assistance from Cicada Innovations’ mentor team for playing a crucial role in launching Propeller Aero off the ground.

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Source: SBS Small Business Secrets