Air traffic is increasing and collisions between drones and airplanes are becoming inevitable in the near future, according to founder Manu Lubrano. The authorities impose no-fly zones for drones, especially near airports and in cities. Urban areas, however, are among the most interesting for business purposes. The full deployment of drones is hindered by restrictive air traffic regulations and by air traffic management systems that were not designed for commercial use in busy skies. The current air traffic management system relies heavily on the human factor and cannot scale up efficiently with the future integration of tens of millions of drones.
inVoli’s hardware and software provide the infrastructure for secure integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into existing air traffic. The technology of the Vaud based startup will make air traffic data openly accessible and can equip participants as well as the flying objects with the necessary instruments to make the sky safer and more efficient. inVoli provides air traffic data even under 2,000 ft, which is precisely where most drones fly. Data in this low altitude is not available as of today.
inVoli’s online platform gathers data from a network of scaled-down control towers so that people are able to see the air traffic surrounding their drone. The towers receive signals from aircrafts in a radius of 10 kilometers.
The signals provide information about
- the GPS position
- flight direction
of the respective aircrafts.
The system forwards this data to the interface of the drone, so that the drone is informed about other flying objects in its surroundings and can automatically and safely maneuver itself out of the danger zone if necessary. The software is compatible with existing drone software.
The startup is based in Renens (VD). The four-person team consists of Manu Lubrano (CEO), Mélanie Guittet (Sales & Marketing), Cristina Mihalachioiu (Legal & Communication) and Steven Roelofsen (R & D). This group of bright minds sees its technology as the basis for a global drone revolution.
What inspired you to start your company?
I love starting projects from scratch and I am really motivated to bring to life new technologies and new concepts. Specifically, with my background in both drones and general aviation, I couldn’t help but notice that the latter was stuck in the ’60s. So the goal is to bring aviation into the 21st century and allow drones to be a safe part of it. Also, motivating people is a challenge in which I never lose interest!
What entrepreneur(s) do you admire and why?
In the Swiss context, my two favorite entrepreneurs are: Tej Tadi (MindMaze) because he is proving that a Swiss startup can also become a unicorn; Jean-Christophe Zufferey (senseFly), not only because I worked a lot with him and I like his management “style”, but also because he proved that even with a strong academic background it is possible to be a successful entrepreneur.
Of course, in the international context I very much admire Elon Musk (Tesla, Space X and Hyperloop) for the incredible determination to make science-fiction technology a reality.
Can you tell us a short story about a customer using your product?
Our product was first used for a professional cartography drone mission for The World Bank in Tanzania.
For the mission, the drone was literally flying over the runway of the international airport of the capital, Dar Es Salaam. With our system we were able to see on our screen the position of incoming aircraft and have the drone in a safe position to allow the aircraft to land safely. Of course our clients were delighted to conduct their mission, but it was incredible to speak with the people in the control tower on the phone and hear how shocked they were when we said we already knew when aircraft were incoming and we already put the drone in a safe position, even before they announced it to us!
What do you love about your own leadership role in your company?
Most people think that being the CEO means being the boss and doing whatever I like everyday.
In reality, it’s a continuous process of understanding how people work and how I work, and how I can adapt in order to get things done. This is really challenging and it allows me to discover and improve myself every step of the way. This is, of course, the best part of it, and also the most challenging.
Why did you apply for the W.A. de Vigier Award?
We applied for the de Vigier award because of its prestige and the possible outcome in terms of reputation and financing – besides the prize, we are convinced that having a reputable Swiss foundation as a shareholder would increase our credibility and add to our success (in fact, our main investor was very impressed when we informed him about being finalists).
Also, one of our goals is to show the world how advanced Switzerland’s startup ecosystem is and this is very much aligned with the de Vigier vision.
What are your impressions so far about the W.A. de Vigier Award?
We are really excited and amazed at all the possibilities the de Vigier Award opened and could open to us. We can already see the incredible impact de Vigier representatives’ advice has had on our day-to-day business activities: the assessment of my management style helped me understand more of the organizational entanglements and how to relate to myself and to the others, colleagues or partners. Also, working on a presentation which is focused not only on the project but also on myself as an individual and as a manager, made me look deeper into my thoughts and organize them for the benefit of the company. Therefore, we can’t wait to see what the next steps will bring!