South Africa’s WiPo Wireless Power, is developing a wireless power solution for power line inspection drones in a move to develop wireless power solutions for different types of drones in the near future.
Speaking to TechMoran about his entrepreneurship journey, Wipo Wireless Power co-founder and CEO Jaco du Preez said, “ I have always wanted to start a small business and be an entrepreneur. This is not my first company, and I consider myself as an experienced entrepreneur, having failed before.”
“It was in 2015 when South Africa was plagued with blackouts and load shedding. As in insider into the industry I knew the problems with our electricity supply had more to do with the reliability and availability of power generating equipment than a lack of capacity,” he said. “The problem I realised was that a different maintenance philosophy was required to ensure a higher reliability and uptime of equipment.”
Jaco says his idea was to make use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) not for corrective maintenance but for predictive maintenance. This required the drones to be used autonomously and for that, they would require wireless power to ensure the drones stayed in the air. He then started to apply wireless power transfer using the concept of resonant capacitive coupling (RCC) which is ideal for the use of the electric fields generated by the power lines.
Wipo Wireless Power’s competition include Witricity in the US, Solace in Canada and GetCorp in Russia which are all developing wireless power solutions for drones. Their technologies include RF transmission, magnetic induction and capactive coupling. Wipo Wireless Power says its chargers are specifically designed for the use in power line inspections.
“To date, there is very few wireless power solutions for drones on the market,” he said adding that a few concepts are being developed but they make use of an radio frequency transmitter, magnetic induction or being powered by microwave or laser technologies while WiPo Wireless power make use of resonant capacitive coupling for the transfer of power to the drones.
The firm has successfully executed a pilot project demonstrating the technology and a successful launch of the product on a crowd funding platform, selling pre-orders of the chargers. The firm is now developing its next iteration of the charger as a minimum viable product (MVP).
Wipo Wireless Power is targeting a $9.6 billion market covering over 5.66 million circuit kilometres of power lines across the world according to a recent report entitled “Drones and Robotics in Utility Grid Infrastructure Global Market Outlook 2016 – 2025”, from Renewable Market Watch.
WiPo Wireless Power have a dual business model, acting both as an Internet-of-Things producer, the wireless chargers for drones, as well as an technology service provider, offering power line inspections using drones as a service.
Speaking on Wipo Wireless Power’s selection to pitch at the Seedstars World Johanesburg Tour, Jaco said, “It is an amazing opportunity. You get so much guidance, mentorship, assistance and exposure. This is on top of the potential of exposure of our company and our brand on the international startup scene. The networking and access to investors and potential clients are a dream come true.”
Jaco adds that more assistance and acceptance of small to medium businesses by Government and large enterprises would help grow more businesses in South Africa. At the moment, access to market is by far its biggest challenge.
“Technology challenges can be systematically addressed and resolved, but access to potential clients, investors and markets are a far greater challenge to overcome,” concluded Jaco.