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Companies Collaborate to Create Spray-Painting Drone

Paints and performance coatings company AkzoNobel (Amsterdam, Netherlands) and aerial robotics firm Apellix (Jacksonville, Florida, USA) have teamed up to develop a computer-controlled spray-painting drone that is set to “change the game of applying paint,” according to AkzoNobel.

 Apellix designed a custom-built drone that is tethered to the ground for its power and coating supply, but that can also fly autonomously to coat surfaces at elevated heights. The drone utilizes unique software flight control to accurately apply coatings and capture valuable painting data.

“While drones fly really well, robots perform repetitive tasks really well and Apellix has been able to combine the best of both worlds,” says Robert Dahlstrom, founder and chief executive officer of Apellix. “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.”

The Apellix drone is projected to provide several potential benefits, including reduced application times, reduced waste, and increased safety for coatings applicators working at height.

“Developing a drone is easy. Spraying paint is relatively easy too,” says Michael Hindmarsh, venture lead with AkzoNobel. “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.”

This collaboration began when Apellix won the Smart Application category in the first Paint the Future global startup challenge conducted by AkzoNobel. From there, Apellix signed a partnership agreement with AkzoNobel. Representatives from both companies expressed enthusiasm about the partnership.

“Apellix is very strong in the technology side of things while AkzoNobel is strong on the coating side,” notes Dahlstrom. “And we both share an intense interest in the data our system collects. It’s a relationship where one plus one equals more than two. It’s an amazing opportunity to accelerate our product’s entry into the world.”

“The experts at AkzoNobel really understand coating application and the global coatings business,” adds Hindmarsh. “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.”

Source: AkzoNobel, www.akzonobel.com.