S3 Ep 11 Kiva & Verity Founder, Artist, ETH Prof Raff D'Andrea: Making drones useful

In S3 Ep 11 of the podcast, the guest Raph D'Andrea, a Canadian Italian Swiss engineer, artist, and entrepreneur, discusses his journey as a co-founder of Kiva Systems and Verity, and his position as a professor of dynamic systems and control at ETH Zurich. Kiva Systems, a mobile robot system that moves goods in warehouses, was acquired by Amazon in 2012 for its efficient and error-free order fulfillment capabilities.

Verity, an autonomous drone system that collects inventory information in warehouses without human intervention, is operational in 13 countries and serves clients such as IKEA. These drones can fly in complete darkness and are more cost-effective and accurate than camera-based systems for tracking goods and correcting errors. Initially focused on the live event industry, Verity's drones have also been used in concerts, showcasing their autonomous flight capabilities in indoor settings without GPS.

The episode also covers Verity's indoor GPS system, which uses ultra-wideband access points for drone navigation and sensors for inside-out localization. After discussing Kiva Systems' acquisition by Amazon and the company's integration and expansion of Kiva's technology, the conversation turns to future opportunities for Verity. With a focus on warehousing, Verity has potential applications in inspection, environmental monitoring, and RFID scanning, with plans for further automation in the works.

D'Andrea shares his personal journey in the world of mobile robots, from participating in and winning the RoboCup competition four times in six years to founding Kiva Systems with Mick Mountz. The episode delves into D'Andrea's fascinating projects, such as actuated wingsuits, blind juggling machines, and exploring Maxwell's demon and thermodynamics, all showcasing his unique expertise in research, entrepreneurship, and technology-inspired art.

In closing, the podcast touches on the importance of balancing work and relaxation, D'Andrea's early experiences and influence on his career, and the integration of his varied roles as part of a broader act of creation. Passionate about physical activities such as hiking and spending time in nature, D'Andrea emphasizes the necessity of separating oneself from their work to maintain a healthy balance in life.