One startup, one story: what if cameras could fly?

How a self-flying drone shoots professional-quality images. Let’s meet Squadrone System.

Hexo+ is essentially a self-flying camera loaded with preprogrammed focusing movements that can be launched by a smartphone app. It was dreamt up by seven-time world champion snowboarder Xavier de Le Rue, who was fed up of paying a fortune for helicopters to film his adventures.

He pulled together expertise from a team of six that includes software developer Sogilis, whose embedded systems are used in all Airbus planes, and Playmaker Communication, the film production company of Xavier’s agent Mathieu Giraud. The award-winning technology they created (three prizes at CES 2015, and one at ISPO 2015) means a drone can shoot footage as good as a professional photographer in a helicopter – without the need for a cameraman or a pilot.

Precision is achieved through a smartphone app that enables users to create a rich storyboard, detailing pans and zooms, or even 360-degree spins. Add a spectacular wilderness background and some daredevil sporting moments, and the result is incredible.

A 2014 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign raised over US$1.3 million in just 30 days from over 2,300 supporters. Community backing allowed Squadrone System to launch

Hexo+, and they haven’t forgotten it. Every two weeks, they check in with their community of adventure sports enthusiasts who endorse the development of new product features.

They successfully raised €3 million last year to develop Hexo+ for new applications beyond adventure sports and to expand internationally. With the help of talented engineers poached from the Grenoble startup ecosystem, Squadrone System are now developing other drones for new applications. The potential is vast: rooftop drones that could help emergency services through early detection of fires, indoor warehouse inventory, site surveillance and security – to name just a few potential uses.

With experience in embedded intelligence, optimized mechanics and electronics, and radically easy-to-use mobile apps, Squadrone System’s mission is to make drones accessible to all. Using civil aerospace methodology, they have developed safe navigation algorithms to capture the aerial views of a pilot, without having to get in a plane or helicopter.

Next in the pipeline is Eyesee, an indoor drone for stocktaking and inventory control in warehouses. This indoor industrial drone has been developed with Hardis Group, a digital services firm and software publisher, and is being tested by warehousing, transport and packaging leader FM Logistic at its warehouse in Satolas (France). Production is expected to begin next year.

Around 60 percent of Squadrone System’s customers are American, and the company has already set up in San Francisco with help from Business France’s Ubi i/o accelerator program. Further expansion may depend on legal drone regulations, which vary country to country.

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