Drone champion Delair strikes a deal with mining giant Eramet


Delair drone upon Eramet mining site

Delair, a startup based near Toulouse, develops professional drones for various industries. Its smart platform is going to turn aerial data of the group’s mining sites into digital twins.

Drone is in the air. The global market for unmanned aerial vehicles is expected to grow by an average 14% every year to reach $52.3bn in 2025, according to MarketsandMarkets. Recreational drones make the news but B2B applications are booming, too. They help companies monitor their agricultural fields, oil platforms, railways, dams and building sites, among others. A French startup, Delair, stands out in this field. The company was founded in the Toulouse region, a 25-minute car ride from Airbus headquarters, by experts in the aerospace industry. It develops long range drones as well as a cloud-based platform, Delair Aerial Intelligence, that analyses data and helps businesses better manage their assets.

Delair has raised more than $25m since inception and claims to generate three quarters of its business outside of Europe thanks to its global distributor network in 70+ countries and its foreign offices in Ghent (Belgium), Los Angeles, Beijing and Singapore. In South-East France, its Delair UX11 drones are used by firefighters for reconnaissance missions and monitoring zones affected by forest fires – they are less expensive than helicopters and don’t put lives into danger.

Digital Twins

The startup recently signed a landmark contract with Eramet, a mining group that generates about €4bn ($4.5bn) of turnover worldwide. Eramet already uses the Delair solution in its Tiébaghi mine in New Caledonia – a French island located in the Pacific Ocean. The group will now use Delair’s drones and digital solution to map and analyze 300,000 hectares a year in its mining sites across New Caledonia, Gabon, Senegal and Indonesia. The startup will develop digital twins of those sites to control operations in real time, adjust extraction schedules and track ore inventories. Its drone data collection method is “five times faster than traditional ways, with centime-level accuracy”, management claims.

Delair’s sales mostly rely on drones, but “our software will become the major source of revenue in the years to come”, states CEO Michaël De Lagarde, an ex-petroleum manager. In this respect the startup stroke a deal with Intel last year. With Intel’s strategic partnership, Delair’s cloud platform is marketed under the Intel Insight brand, worldwide. De Lagarde’s vision is crystal clear: « Data is the future of the commercial drone business ».