Arizona’s strong mining industry, great weather conditions and potential for partnerships made Scottsdale an easy choice as the new North American headquarters for the Israeli drone company Airobotics.
One of the most important factors in the company’s decision was finding an area with consistent flying conditions, said Airobotics Vice President of Business Development Yahel Nov.
Started in 2014, Airobotics has quickly grown into a leading tech company. Last year, it secured more than $32 million in revenue from multiple business ventures. The company has raised more than $71 million since its inception. In its first year, Airobotics grew from 80 to 200 employees.
The company, which primarily works on complex mining operations, operates internationally with offices in Australia and Israel, along with operations in Chile and New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific. Australia-based BHP, the world’s largest mining company, has operations in the United States and was Airobotics’ first U.S. customer.
In a press release, Airobotics Founder and CEO Ran Krauss said of Arizona, “The state and local governments are very supportive of autonomous and aviation technologies, and the UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] industry specifically, aligning with our plans to operate UAVs beyond visual line of sight in the U.S.”
Airobotics separates itself from other drone companies by utilizing a fully automated system called Optimus. Most drones are flown by operators on the ground near the area of the drone’s travel. By taking location operators out of the loop and sending the aircraft up from remote locations, Airobotics can streamline drone activity for more immediate applications. According to Nov, drones that require on-the-ground operators face roadblocks.
“As long as you have a person who’s flying, it’s just like having a driver,” Nov said. “Different pilots have different levels of alertness. It really depends on their individual level of skill.”
Nov described how drones are an effective way to collect and comprehend a large amount of aerial data. Automated drones also allow for operators and miners to be in safer working conditions, he added. These drones only need to wait for the operator’s instructions to start a mission.
Optimus drones are designed to deploy and land themselves. They are built with an industrial-grade material to perform in harsh conditions such as excessive heat and large dust storms. Optimus drones also can fly for 30 minutes, carrying more than two pounds of payload.
“Most other drones are more toy-like, so their survivability is low,” Nov said. “We fly a lot in challenging environments. We have to really focus on making sure we have an incredibly rugged vehicle.”
In the future, Nov said the drones will be available for multiple applications outside of mining. These include stockpile management, surveying and mapping, security and emergency services.
In a press release, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey praised the company’s arrival. When “an innovative international company like Airobotics chooses not only to expand here, but also establish its North American headquarters here,” Ducey said, “that says something about the endless opportunities available here in Arizona. We look forward to the company’s growth and welcome its contributions as we continue to develop unmanned aerial systems technology in our state.”
Airobotics’ move to Scottsdale could bring upwards of 80 jobs to the area by the end of 2019. The company is searching for employees skilled in local technology, operations and sales.
“We’re looking forward to being part of the community and to contribute locally,” Nov said. “We’re looking forward to seeing the really talented people here, and it would be great to onboard them and build a good company here.”
Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane is happy that Airobotics chose to locate its North American headquarters in his city. He added that Scottsdale provides a healthy environment for companies to grow.
“Scottsdale, I think, is a great location for the companies that are involved in the technology sector because we’ve built up a critical mass,” Lane said. “We like to believe that we provide a great operating platform for businesses and technology in particular.” JN