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INNOVATION SHOWCASE: UDARA

Udara has been selected to exhibit in the Innovation Showcase at this year’s VentureFest North East. Director Chris Holder explains what the company does and discusses the best and worst parts of trying to be innovative.

Describe your business in no more than 60 words

Udara is a technology company with a focus on intelligent aerial imaging. Using state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques, we create software for drone operators that combines autonomous flight with real-time image analysis to give users instant access to the aerial information they need.

What prompted you to enter the innovation showcase?

As a brand-new company, we felt it would provide a great opportunity to show off our technology in front of potential customers, collaborators, and investors.

Describe the innovation that you’ve entered the showcase with. 

We are developing a real-time image classification system that drone operators can use to automate aerial inspection and survey tasks. A live video feed from a drone is passed into our AI software which has learned to detect useful features and patterns to output meaningful information that can be acted on immediately. Potential applications we have identified include automating the inspection of wind turbines and monitoring of crops.

How would you describe that innovation to your grandparents?

A few years ago, some clever people realised that by sending flying robots into the sky with cameras, they could photograph things from a different viewpoint than they could from the ground. We help computers talk to those flying robots and understand exactly what it is they can see from way up there in the sky.

What are the best and worst parts of trying to be innovative in your business?

The best part is playing with new technology and imagining the crazy potential it might be able to achieve. The worst part is trying to explain that new technology to those of a less technical inclination, especially in such a fast moving sector with most people still not quite accustomed to the existence of drones.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

Trying to get our company off the ground and be taken seriously: Udara has existed for less than six months, and with only two of us to do all the work of building a business from nothing, those have been a manic six months. And the next six are very likely to be even more so…

Where do you get support and advice to help you run your business?

Durham University have been very supportive so far, in terms of advice, resources, and funding, helping us to receive a £500 Kickstart grant towards computer hardware, which although not an earth shattering amount of money has certainly been useful in getting the company up and running.

Previous VentureFest events have also provided opportunities to meet a wide assortment of helpful people and learn about the organizations able to provide support locally to small businesses.

What does being chosen for the innovation showcase mean to you?

Being chosen for the Innovation Showcase will really be our first opportunity to make a large number of people aware of who we are and what we do, so it is quite a daunting prospect, but hopefully it will lead to many meaningful new connections.

Where do you see your company in five years’ time?

The drone industry is fast paced and highly disruptive, so it can be difficult to predict how things will look in five months, never mind five years. Hopefully Udara will be a trusted brand providing valuable software to drone operators all over the world across a variety of sectors, increasing the efficiency of their operations as well as the value they can offer to their customers. However, our ideal scenario, like many technology companies, would be to eventually sell the business to one of the bigger players.

What would you tell businesses who are hoping to be more innovative?

Don’t innovate for the sake of innovation: a chocolate teapot could be innovative… But once you have identified a genuine problem for which established solutions are inadequate, the only options are to innovate or to quit. Successful innovation is as much about perseverance and tenacity as it is about imagination and open-mindedness.

Come and see the region’s latest innovations for yourself, and get a unique chance to talk to the people behind the big ideas by registering for VentureFest North East here https://goo.gl/kmYriT