Funding for drone tech firm on a mission to slash wind turbine maintenance costs

September 10, 2021

A Bristol robotics business aiming to cut the cost of maintaining wind turbines is flying high after landing £1.6m in its latest funding round.

Perceptual Robotics uses autonomous drones to map turbines before passing the images onto a cloud-based AI (artificial intelligence) system which processes them to detect damage. 

The company’s founders, who met at the University of Bristol, believe their technology is two thirds cheaper than existing methods of detection – which mostly rely on specialists abseiling down turbines in search of damage – and can reduce the total cost of blade maintenance by up to 30%.

Now, five years after launching the firm, they have secured funding to take it to the next level.

Perceptual Robotics CEO Kostas Karachalios said: “We already work with some of the world’s biggest wind power providers and we have been steadily growing our revenues.

“This funding will allow us to increase headcount, continue to mature our ground-breaking technology and drive the scale of our sales and marketing activities on the back of our recent successful programmes with clients across Europe.

“Perceptual Robotics started with a simple aim: to use the very latest technology to reduce the costs associated with green energy.

“We hope that with this money we will attract exceptional people to join our offices in Bristol and Athens. The future is bright and exciting.”

Recent industry forecasts suggest the global wind energy market could be worth $127.2bn (£92bn) by 2027, more than double its value in 2019.

The idea for the company was born when the three co-founders were students on the university’s Mechanical Engineering Masters course and realised their extensive robotics knowledge could reduce costs in the wind industry.

Kostas Karachalios, Dimitris Nikolaidis and Kevin Driscoll-Lind – now CEO, chief operating officer and chief technical officer respectively - spent time working in energy, hardware and large-scale software firms before launching Perceptual Robotics in 2016.

In 2017 the firm joined the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, an incubator jointly run by the University of Bristol and UWE.

Along with the widespread implications for the wind power industry, they believe the technology could be expanded to reduce costs in other industries.

University of Bristol Professor of Aerial Robotics Tom Richardson supervised the trio during their time at the university and became a board member when the company was launched.

He said: “Perceptual Robotics is an exciting start-up operating in the field of autonomous inspection.

“It is brilliant to see three graduates of Bristol University support the green energy revolution, and it has been a privilege as part of the Board to watch them grow the company.”

The £1.6m funding round was led by TSP Ventures, a venture capitalist firm focussing on environmental technologies.

TSP Ventures CEO Chris Smith said: “We are delighted to be joining the team at Perceptual Robotics. Their mission, to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in the wind turbine inspection market is helping the whole of the wind industry become more efficient and cost effective.

“At TSP, we love enabling technologies that can help accelerate the transition to renewable energy and a cleaner future for our planet. We look forward to supporting Kostas and the rest of the team as they scale operations internationally.”

TSP was joined by Humble Holdings, an impact investments firm, existing investors Metavallon VC and other strategic angel investors.

Pictured, from left: Perceptual Robotics COO Dimitris Nikolaidis, CTO Kevin Driscoll-Lind, and CEO Kostas Karachalios


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