ChangeAerial Receives Funding from San Diego State University Pilot Innovation Fund

September 2021

Building on ChangeAerial’s (ChA) existing prototype tools and intellectual property, ChangeAerial received funding from San Diego State University’s (SDSU) Pilot Innovation Fund (PIF) to adapt image processing/machine learning routines and advance automated solutions for rapid electric power inspection.  ChangeAerial’s solution will reduce the risk of wildfire in vulnerable areas and promote more frequent, cost-effective monitoring for world-wide electric utility markets. Further, PIF funding is enabling ChangeAerial to advance the tools to a state suitable for demonstration to multiple electric power utilities and will allow ChA to be better positioned to win future EPRI innovation/technology-scaling funding as well as angel investment.

Three general development tasks are being completed through the PIF project:

  • Task 1 – Drone imaging of de-energized electric tower facilities
  • Task 2 – Adaptation of AI/ML algorithms for detecting damage and wear associated with electric utility assets
  • Task 3 – Build graphical user interface to support viewing images and automatically derived damage detection products

Three milestones represent the outcomes of the PIF project:

  • Milestone 1 – Fully trained machine learning damage detector 
  • Milestone 2 – Fully functional GUI enabling effective demonstration of automated and visual-based damage detection
  • Milestone 3 – Demonstrate fire hazard monitoring prototype to SDG&E 

The SDSU Pilot Innovation Fund is a grant program established to help SDSU faculty transition their research-based innovations toward commercial readiness. Awards made from the Pilot Innovation Fund are targeted to helping faculty develop innovations in order to reach milestones that demonstrate their value or reduce their risk to potential corporate partners, investors or customers.  Goals for projects funded by the Pilot Innovation Fund include:

  • Developing innovations to bring them closer to the market. This can include prototyping, testing for efficacy, etc. (further examples provided later in this section)
  • Licensing SDSU innovations to external industrial partners
  • Formation of viable new companies based on SDSU innovations
  • Attraction of external follow-on funding (research funding, SBIR/STTR, angel investment, Venture Capital investment, corporate partner investment, etc.)
  • Bringing new products and/or new services to the market
  • New corporate partnerships

Funding of our team through the Pilot Innovation Fund is spotlighted in SDSU’s “2020-2021 Research Highlights” magazine on page 17, available at:

Information about SDSU’s Pilot Innovation Fund can be found here: https://research.sdsu.edu/tto/pilot-innovation-fund

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