A little chat with a friend. This is the beginning of Canard’s history, which dates back to 2014. “Javier is an industrial engineer and works at AENA. He explained to me that safety is the number one priority in air transport, the second largest industry in the world in revenue after petrochemicals”, remembers Jorge Gómez, CEO of Canard. This is Canard’s approach to the runway.
The AENA worker’s explanation of airport environments led Gomez to learn about the existence of composite materials to avoid electromagnetic interference, specifically with the radio aid beacons better known as those of the instrumental landing system (ILS) of modern aircraft. “To promote security, airports around the world use air navigation aids systems, a set of radio and visual beacons that help pilots land safely,” adds Gómez. And that’s where Canard was born.
“At that time it occurred to me that, instead of using manned aircraft, it would be cheaper, faster and more effective to use drones with on-board sensors to carry out this same task, in addition to carrying out flights autonomously, without CO2 emissions or noises and no human error. I was investigating and there were no patents about it. “
Air navigation aid systems are inspected from the air using special aircraft that carry sensors and on-board systems designed to calibrate these beacons. Carrying out these inspections is a high cost for airports and the availability of these aircraft is very low due to their very special characteristics. “To get an idea, in Spain there is a single plane that supervises the more than 50 airports throughout the country, including the islands,” says Gómez.
With the idea in mind, Canard’s development led its founder to search for a drone-building expert. This adventure moved him to what was his home a few years earlier, IE Business School where he did parts of his studies. Ana Pérez, an aerospace engineer enrolled in Airbus, answered the proposal, designing military aircraft and drones. “He loved the idea and proposed to me to work together,” adds the CEO of the startup.
Weeks later, Rafael Aguado, a friend and ex-partner of Gómez, and Juan Díaz, a telecommunications engineer and expert in drones, joined the team. His knowledge allowed him to “extract data from the drone in a restricted environment such as airports.”
With just over a year of life, this Spanish “startup” collects milestones in its short history. As soon as they took flight, they received funding from the European Space Agency (ESA), which earned them to work on their first prototype, thanks to 170,000 euros. “In just twelve months we managed to go from an initial idea to having a product that performs real-time calibration of air navigation aid systems,” says its founder proudly.
The young company’s first successes immediately came to the sector. The aerodromes of Seattle, Amsterdam, one of the leaders in innovation and technology, and even Paris have already asked about its technology. The passing of the months has led them to collect 350,000 euros in more than fifteen international awards for innovation and entrepreneurship. In addition, they have just closed a financing round of 1.2 million euros in London.
This success has also been reflected in the union with Microsoft. The two companies have reached an agreement whereby Canard moves its entire infrastructure from the Amazon Web Services cloud to the Microsoft Azure “Cloud” solution. “We use Azure, SharePoint and Microsoft Surface to capture the data coming from the drones and create the information for our clients. Thanks to this, we managed to reduce the time of the calibration by a quarter, and the cost by approximately 25%,” says the founder.