SA’s Notam uses drones, AI to make mining, infrastructure projects more efficient

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South Africa’s Notam has developed a drone cloud software and artificial intelligence (AI) platform that aims to provide a single source of truth for mining and infrastructure projects. 

Founded in 2014 under the name Pragmatic Master, the startup rebranded as Notam last year. It uses drone data and AI to enable companies to perform faster surveys and obtain more efficient progress verification.

“With a single drone flyover we can enable all stakeholders to communicate with a centralised cloud software. This bridges the information gap between a mining or construction site and the office by putting data at everyone’s fingertips,” founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Zukile Mkhalali told Disrupt Africa.

The drone data and AI provide an enterprise end-to-end data platform that empower customers to manage their projects efficiently, seamlessly, and cost-effectively for improved business decisions.

“For construction and mining companies we reduce surveying time to a day. We also create a paperless trail that aids in environmental and regulatory compliance,” Mkhalali said.

Though use of drones is on the rise, he said most drone service providers in South Africa only provide the drones themselves, and use third party software to process the data. 

“This is the gap we saw. The usage of drones in mining, construction and property management has increased, but handling the data is still a momentous task. We provide fast processing and also have the knowledge to capture high quality data,” said Mkhalali.

Initially bootstrapped, Notam closed a seed round with IDF Capital in 2020 after taking part in the I’M IN drone accelerator. Initial uptake post-rebrand was slow, Mkhalali said, but the startup has seen an increase in demand so far in 2021 which he attributes partly to COVID-19.

“Construction, mining and property management companies are looking for alternative ways to perform manual tasks,” he said, adding that the startup has seen strong revenue growth from its subscription-based model.

Operating primarily in South Africa, Notam hopes to ride this wave to expand into Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana. More cash will be required, however, to take real advantage of the opportunities presenting themselves.

“The lack of funding in the initial stages of the company forces us to be more conservative with resources, and this stagnates our growth. The drone industry is highly regulated in South Africa and requires a substantial investment in order to be fully regulated,” Mkhalali said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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