Saving the sea: Drone company Aerologix partners with Clean Up Australia

Saving the sea: Drone company Aerologix partners with Clean Up Australia

A fleet of drones is set to take off over Sydney’s Northern Beaches in two days as part of a joint effort between Aerologix and Clean Up Australia to stop rubbish from entering waterways and nature reserves.

While pilots focus on taking aerial footage along the coastline and above Manly Dam, groups on the ground will optimise their waste-collecting efforts via hotspots identified by the drones on a map.

Founded in 2019 by former Qantas (ASX: QAN) pilot Tom Caska and Rakesh Routhu, Aerologix has been dubbed as an ‘Uber for drones’ and works by connecting drone pilots to enterprises or individuals in search of drone imaging via its platform.

Living on the Northern Beaches himself, Caska said he was thrilled to be kicking off the latest partnership in his own backyard.

“I’m so excited to be working with Clean Up Australia, it’s been a vision of mine since we started the business four years ago,” Caska said.

“Using innovative technology for positive change is one of our mottos and I can’t think of a better application to do that.

“One of the things that excites us most is using new technology in a new way to help the environment and help clean the planet up.”

The announcement comes just two weeks after Caska spoke at the Business News Australia E2E Summit, where he shared how he met his co-founder Routhu at an MBA program run by the UNSW Sydney Business School's Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM).

It was there the two joined forces to build a microchip for drones that would allow users to control their flying robots from anywhere in the world via a free iOS or Android app.

Only a year into operating, Aerologix would catch the attention of global telecommunications giant Nokia, securing a pivotal deal to have its drones survey thousands of their sites across Australia. The technology is now being applied to industries such as real estate, architecture, agriculture, construction, and solar – all of which commonly require aerial imagery, site analysis or maintenance check-ups.

“We've got over 20,000 drone pilots on the network [and we’re] getting 100 new signups every week. We've got a couple 100 paying customers attached to that,” Caska said at the E2E Summit.

He also noted that as technology rapidly evolved, it made accessing drones more affordable.

“You had a few different technology groups coming together. A combination of advanced automation, silicon chip technology, advanced navigation systems, and then economies of scale with the mass production of drones – [they] went from being $20,000 or $30,000, down to something you can buy in JB Hi-Fi for $500.”

“We’re looking to scale-up pretty fast, so we’re moving offshore to New Zealand and then all throughout Asia. To date, we’ve raised just under $6 million.

“We're probably going do a bridge round to get to Series A and then expand all throughout the world, which is super exciting.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), Australia produces 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, equating to 100 kg per person.

Up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic waste end up in waterways and the ocean. 

“We’re excited to be partnering with Aerologix to obtain access to never before seen areas of rubbish from the sky,” Clean Up Australia CEO Jenny Geddes said.

“This will give our Clean Up Australia teams the ability to clear problem areas that would otherwise remain out of sight.”

The latest partnership is a full circle moment for Caska, who was propelled to internet fame nine years ago after an aerial image of his brother surfing metres away from a great white shark on the NSW Central Coast went viral, landing him interviews with international media outlets.

The event led to him working with Surf Lifesaving New South Wales to set up a drone network covering 17,000km in order to monitor marine life and swimmers – a program that is still running to this day.

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