Le Booster #6: Seenetik, Game of drones

Researchers at INRIA (French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation) of Rennes, Nicolas Cazy and Quentin Bateux met when they were members of the Lagadic Group. A research team specialized in Visual Servoing in robotics. “To make it simple, we use information from cameras to control robots“, says Nicolas.

The two young men, who recently concluded their theses, are now focusing on a business project: Seenetik.

The Drone Rush

In 2014 French people were taken by the drone craze and 100,000 units were sold. Sales reached 250 000 units in 2015 and 400 000 in 2016 ads Nicolas Cazy. Currently the US accounts for 60% of the market, and the rest is split between Europe and Asia.

We also noticed a fast growing enthusiasm for drone-related events, e.g. the creation of the drone Racing League (DRL) in the United States: a competition which brings together the best pilots of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). At the start, there were many amateur leagues, we see the emergence of a real business for the pros”.

The $1 million of cash prize awarded at the World Drone Prix in Dubai in 2016 shows -beyond any doubt- that it is now, serious business!

“Creating Value”

Seenetik was born from a simple idea: drone freaks were often limited in the use of their flying machines for a number of reasons such as weather conditions or national jurisdictions. Searching deeper, the two INRIA fellows discovered that the number of sites where you could fly your drone indoors was quite limited. Drone flying is usually a solitary activity. Was it possible to turn it into a group event?

In discussing ways to promote the work of their research lab, Nicolas Cazy and Quentin Bateux thought of a concept inspired from the famous laser games: two teams of players piloting drones with joysticks and virtual reality goggles, are fighting real space battles.

We use our technology for drone piloting assistance. Today it’s important to provide a quick access to this kind a leisure activity, without spending hours in initiation and training. When a drone flies, it’s filming its surroundings with a camera that we also use to add fictitious elements” explains Nicolas Cazy. “When a drone is filming an enemy drone, we can add virtual items, which will influence the player. I.e. if you shoot at the enemy drone, you can see it swaying and if it has lost all its virtual life points, it lands automatically.”

The Booster – Assistance for the Business Plan

Even if Nicolas Cazy and Quentin Bateux have a marked preference for the technology side of the project, they have a fairly clear idea of their business model. They are not planning to open a battle room to make money, but they’d rather sell the technology under the form of licensing agreements. And the Booster contributed to their business developments. “The Booster helped us deal us with marketing realities” ads Nicolas Cazy. “It’s nice to have a project, but you have to find how to sell it, who will buy it, where the money will come from to make the first prototype. The Booster forced us to cope with the project’s harsh business realities”.

The two young men are currently involved in a search for funds and subsidies. They are also investigating all the facets of the economic ecosystem that they may decide to join.

While waiting for the first drone battles of the consumer market, they are negotiating with potential operators. A project that will be closely monitored by all the aficionados of leisure activities. For now, it’s still … work in progress.