Sometimes the best ideas come when you are sitting in traffic. Former Tesla executive Olivier Le Lann, who is now CEO of EVA realized, while in gridlock, that it would be a tragedy if there were an emergency and first responders couldn’t get their vehicles through the jam. The answer: drones. “You should be able to release the pressure on the ground,” Olivier says. How? “The answer is the sky,” he says.
Americans spend 41 hours per year in traffic, according to INRIX, a transportation analytics company. In the U.S., which has 10 of the top 25 worst cities for traffic, congestion cost $305 billion last year, an increase of $10 billion from 2016. EVA, an URBAN-X Cohort 07 company, sees the integration of 3D mobility near the most congested cities as a necessity to navigate clogged streets or destroyed roadways when emergencies arise, as well as reduce casualties attributed to slow first-response. Oliver adds: “People literally die from healthcare not being delivered on time, buildings not inspected thoroughly, or a lack of helicopters to find survivors and deliver survival kits after a natural disaster.”
Drones have become a hot topic in the last decade. The commercial drones we see today came to life in the early 2000s, while consumer drone usage has skyrocketed. DJI accounts for about 70% of the world’s drone market and has an estimated valuation of around $21 billion. While it does not disclose its financial results, its annual net income is estimated at roughly 6 billion yuan. Though there has been an influx of drone inventory, there is still a lack of infrastructure to make drones a viable source of transportation or medical relief. “The drone industry accomplishes great missions, yet the infrastructure to dock, charge, host, control multiple drones is almost nonexistent. Imagine the car industry in the 1900s without garages, gas stations, or parking. Our technology provides a tangible framework to bring the drone industry to an industrial level,” Olivier says.
EVA’s product offering is a full logistic solution for drones. The core offering is a network of vertical stations. Each station provides infrastructure where up to 24 drones can land, charge and launch to deliver goods such as healthcare supplies to hospitals, and relief and recovery materials for disaster management. Successful implementation takes planning, coordination, and government buy-in to make cities “drone-ready” for a seamless and safe integration of unmanned autonomous aircraft in urban environments.
Given the urgency of the challenge and the global need, where does one start? “We have a very large global network that we are leveraging to scale our business,” Olivier says. EVA’s leadership team has Tesla DNA, “having faced large hurdles” bringing new electric vehicle technology to many countries, including Japan and South Korea. EVA plans to launch in cities in western Europe, Japan, and New York, where it has received a grant from the New York State which has recently completed a state-of-the-art 50 mile corridor for drones and supports EVA vision. The team is hiring and putting a full production line in motion. ‘Be prepared’ is not only something he tells his customers, it is how he leads his team. As Olivier says: “We are facing a very large demand and need to be ready to answer it.”