Aibotix GmbH - FluggerätHexagon just keeps getting more interesting. Started out as a fish cannery and parts maker, sold off those businesses and acquired sophisticated measuring devices and software, GIS and then Intergraph … Lots of acquisitions in between, but today Hexagon announced that it’s bought an aerial drone maker. Yup. Drones.

Hexagon has acquired Aibotix, a German company that designed and manufactures multicopters, like the one shown above. The Aibot X6 isn’t military (at least as far as I’ve been able to discover); rather it’s a vertical take-off and landing UAV for industrial inspection (think power lines, dams, bridges), mapping, movie-making and similar applications. What’s especially cool is that the X6 has a “Flight Assist Mode” that allows it to be steered with a standard remote control, no previous experience required.

This image gives a better idea of how big a multicopter is:

Mine survey

Details of the acquisition were not given, but we do know that Aibotix is headquartered in Kassel, Germany and has more than 30 employees. According to the company, customers include large utilities such as RWE and APG and large EPC firms including AECOM.

Not a drone expert, so can’t say anything about the relative merits of the Aibotix offering but can totally see where Hexagon is going with this. Reality capture is already huge in some industries and will keep getting more and more traction as software capabilities grow. It’s one thing to get the images, but another to analyze the captured data and serve it for decision making. Imagine taking pictures of every square millimeter of an asset like the Hoover Dam and processing them to find flaws, and categorizing those issues automatically by severity. In a perfect world, the software could figure out the difference between a crack from the interior of the structure and a surface blemish. The picture-taking is the easy part (if you’ve got  drone); the analysis requires significant compute capability and very, very smart software.

Images courtesy of Aibotix.