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French airship drone company HyLight attracts investors for next stage of aerial inspection services

HyLight, a French company specialised in aerial inspection using hydrogen airship drones, has announced a fundraising of EUR 3.7 million from VCs and business angels including Y Combinator, Ring Capital, Kima Ventures, Collaborative Fund, and Marc Tarpenning, the co-founder of Tesla, to decarbonise aerial inspection.

The deal will enable the company to accelerate the deployment of its airship drones at an industrial scale to offer the first zero-emission solution capable of inspecting any type of infrastructure from the air, said the company in a press release.

“There are 80 million kilometers of energy infrastructure on our planet,” said the company.  “That is 200 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon. These power lines and pipelines are critical infrastructure for the proper functioning of societies. Therefore, they must be inspected at regular intervals (sometimes several times per month) to ensure their good condition and prevent failures. However, today, infrastructure operators struggle to conduct accurate, large-scale inspections.

“As a result, methane leaks from “oil and gas” infrastructure represent 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions and result in annual losses of USD7 billion in the European and North American markets. The costs of power outages amount to USD18 billion per year in the USA alone[1]. Meanwhile, the regulatory framework is tightening, requiring operators to accelerate inspections. But effectively identifying small faults in such large areas is like looking for a needle in a haystack!

“To address these challenges, industry professionals have previously had to resort to solutions that were either costly and polluting (helicopters), not precise enough (drone planes and satellites), or lacking in flight autonomy (quadricopter drones). With its hydrogen-powered airship, HyLight drastically reduces inspection costs and enables ultra-precise data to be collected over large areas, all without emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs). Equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell, the HyLighter is a cross between drone and airship technology. Like a drone, it is easy to control and transport. And, like an airship, it is extremely stable and energy-efficient, allowing it to fly for up to 10 hours, over a distance of 350 km.

“Its flight speed of 35 km/h, HD cameras and sensors (LIDAR, thermal, infrared, etc.) ensure optimal precision for any type of mission. By making flights more efficient, the HyLighter enables the detection of previously uncollected data. Thanks to its cameras and computer systems, the HyLighter is able to transmit data securely, generate detailed reports and draw up control or forecast plans to prevent breakdowns or accidents.

These EUR3.7 million will enable HyLight to achieve three crucial milestones. Firstly, it will provide the opportunity to carry out its first large-scale operations. This operational expansion will support the expansion of its network of strategic partnerships, thereby strengthening its market position. Additionally, the funds will give the company the resources to recruit new experts in various fields: aviation regulation, embedded systems, hydrogen systems, mechanical engineering, industrialization and software development. This team will be essential to support the company’s growth ambitions and R&D needs, and to strengthen its presence in industry. Lastly, the funds raised will enable HyLight to develop new versions of its airship drones that meet the strictest aeronautical and industrial standards and are approved by competent international authorities. These improved versions will be designed to be even more efficient, safer and easier to produce on a large scale, to meet growing market demand and better serve its customers and partners worldwide.

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