Drone painters take flight

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Florida-based Apellix and AkzoNobel are collaborating on a computer-controlled spray painting drone.

Apellix’s custom-built drone is tethered to the ground for its power and coating supply, but has the freedom to fly autonomously depending on the area to be coated. Why do we say this is a smart solution? It uses unique software flight control to more accurately apply coatings, and it’s also able to capture valuable painting data.

Robert Dahlstrom, Apellix Founder and CEO, says: “While drones fly really well, robots perform repetitive tasks really well and Apellix has been able to combine the best of both worlds. Building upon our software-controlled robots that make contact with a structure to take steel and paint thickness measurements, we’ve attached a specially designed spray painting system to a custom drone controlled by computers.

“We’re really excited about the potential to collaborate with AkzoNobel,” says Robert. “I was immediately impressed by everything from the online platform to the experts commenting on our proposal. Ever since the beginning, there’s been full engagement from the people at AkzoNobel.”

Michael Hindmarsh, AkzoNobel Venture Lead, adds: “Developing a drone is easy. Spraying paint is relatively easy too. But developing a computer-controlled drone that can spray paint is actually quite challenging. A lot of skill and expertise has to go into getting the drone to apply a good quality coating in a consistent and reproducible manner. That’s where our collaboration comes in. The experts at AkzoNobel really understand coating application and the global coatings business. Our expertise is a critical part of this partnership. We’re helping Apellix understand the quality expectations of paint application so the spray painting drone can be modified to meet those requirements. We’re also financing the development of the drone, which we’re aiming to use in a first pilot application on a large surface in the second quarter of 2020.”

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