New autonomous drone is a smarter way to apply paint

Apellix (from Jacksonville, Florida, USA) and AkzoNobel are collaborating on a computer-controlled spray painting drone that’ll change the game of applying paint. Apellix won the partnership in the 2019 Paint the Future global startup challenge, now we reveal how it’s unfolding.

We knew we could expect great things to come from our 2019 edition of the global startup challenge. Pushing the boundaries of the paints and coatings industry – that’s what the collaborative innovation ecosystem of Paint the Future is all about.

Now the solutions that captured the imaginations of our experts are gaining momentum. Robert Dahlstrom, Apellix Founder and CEO and Michael Hindmarsh, AkzoNobel Venture Lead are ready to share what’s next in this partnership.


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Winner of 2019 Paint the Future global startup challenge.

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Entered in the “Smart application” category.

Signed partnership agreement with AkzoNobel

A smart solution - Apellix’s custom-built drone is tethered to the ground for its power and coating supply, but has the freedom to fly autonomously depending on the area to be coated. Why do we say this is a smart solution? It uses unique software flight control to more accurately apply coatings, and it’s also able to capture valuable painting data.

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

Michael is impressed with the rate of progress in their work to develop the spray painting drone. “Developing a drone is easy. Spraying paint is relatively easy too. 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.”

The benefits of using this type of drone, such as reduced application time and less waste to the environment, as well as increased safety for applying paint at height, are well worth the intense effort.


When the total is greater than the sum of its parts

“We’re really excited about the potential to collaborate with AkzoNobel,” says Robert. “I was immediately impressed by everything from the online platform to the experts commenting on our proposal. Ever since the beginning, there’s been full engagement from the people at AkzoNobel.”

Robert notes that each partner is making an equally great contribution: “Apellix is very strong in the technology side of things while AkzoNobel is strong on the coating side. 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.”

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

Robert adds: “There’s so much to come in our collaboration, but it’s already been a very transformative experience. I’ve personally learned a lot, and it’s exciting to see our progress.”

Stick with us for this exciting journey! Stay tuned for updates as we work with Apellix and the other winning startups develop their technologies.

“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.” - Robert Dahlstrom, Apellix Founder and CEO

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