An Adelaide company developing capability for the commercial manufacture of solar powered drones will receive $150,000 in support under the State Government’s Early Commercialisation Fund.

Praxis Aeronautics has created a process by which solar cells can be encapsulated into a composite material, such as the body of a drone.

Currently, petrol powered drones are expensive to purchase and maintain, and while electric drones are cheaper, they have a flight duration of up to only one hour depending on payload.

With the extended flight duration, the company believes the drones could be used for a number of humanitarian, environmental management, mapping and defence purposes, such as delivery of medical supplies to remote or isolated communities

The support will go towards scaling up the systems and production facilities to allow for the manufacture of full scale solar powered drones for sale.

Background

The $10 million, four-year SA Early Commercialisation Fund provides staged grants of up to $500,000. To date over 240 expressions of interest have been received from entrepreneurs, innovators, researchers and businesses.

The SAECF is administered by TechInSA, the State Government’s innovation agency, offering start-ups and early-stage companies customised programs including grants, business and marketing assistance and lab and office space, as well as assisting with access to global networks.

The State Government has committed more than $80 million for innovation, including the $50 million South Australian Venture Capital Fund which is now open.

Father-son company Praxis Aeronautics won the University of Adelaide Australian eChallenge Tertiary Award in 2016. While solar power drones are now available, they are less efficient and the design needs to be altered to accommodate solar cells.

Quotes attributable to Manufacturing and Innovation Minister Kyam Maher

Our Early Commercialisation Fund is targeted towards helping innovators and entrepreneurs develop their ideas into reality and take their products to market.

By supporting the state’s researchers and entrepreneurs, we are creating the jobs of the future and investing in the incredibly innovative ideas that are being generated in our state.

Companies such as Praxis Aeronautics are looking at gaps in the market and using advanced manufacturing and the latest technologies to make these ideas into a reality.

Quotes attributable to TechinSA Chief Executive Joe Thorp

South Australia has a strong future in high-value manufacturing. The State’s entrepreneurial spirit and leadership in research means that we have the people and the capacity to develop leading innovations, like a more efficient solar drone.

This is smart innovation; products that give a market edge by intelligent use of technology, we are now leveraging this type of innovation to create companies and jobs.

Quotes attributable to Praxis Aeronautics Managing Director Don Donaldson

Our new manufacturing process is disruptive because it enables standard solar cells to be used in a much more productive way.

The Early Commercialisation Fund has enabled us to get to a commercial stage much earlier than would be normally possible for a small start-up, by allowing us to purchase manufacturing equipment and some materials for our prototype.