At the cutting edge of high-precision cartography

SenseFly has established itself as a world leader in the sector of drones for professional usage and now employs some 120 people in the canton.

SenseFly was founded in 2009, making it one of the first companies to be involved in the sector of professional drones. It is now firmly established in Cheseaux in the canton of Vaud, employing 140 people in total (120 of them in Switzerland) and with growth of over 30% per year, making it one of the biggest manufacturers in the world in this sector. "We rapidly identified cases for a relevant application for professional usage, in particular in the field of cartography and GIS (geographic information systems), then after that in agriculture and inspection," explains head of sales and marketing Jean-Thomas Célette.

The company specializes in focusing on this type of application. Its products are used to map large areas in 3D and in very high precision, and to inspect buildings and works of art. "In more general terms, we develop solutions to enable our clients to take their readings more efficiently, more accurately, and with greater security," Célette continues.

Pioneer of "Drone Valley"

SenseFly played a key role in the creation of the Vaud competence hub dedicated to drones ("Drone Valley"). Together with sister company Pix4D, they are now the largest employers in the drone sector in Switzerland in general, and in the region in particular. Since its creation, many other drone start-ups have enjoyed success in the canton. SenseFly works together with many of them, including DroneLogbook and Flyability.

The company also works with Skyguide (a Swiss company specializing in air traffic control and navigation) and the federal authorities (OFAC) in the field of aerospace regulation and security. It also has close ties with the education and innovation support sectors, including with the EPFL and Innosuisse. "We continue to offer a number of internships every year to students whom we integrate directly into our product and software design teams," says Célette.

200 points of sale around the world

The company has a presence throughout the world via more than 70 specialized salespeople and over 200 points of sale and services. It also has offices in the USA, Australia, and China. "Our clients principally come from the geospatial sector, primarily mining, horizontal construction (roads and railway lines), and land management as well as agriculture and the inspection of buildings and works of art (bridges, heavy industry). Our solutions enable professionals in these sectors to obtain more accurate readings in a fraction of the time that conventional methods require. The use of our platforms also means that they are much less exposed to risks out in the field and increases their security in the workplace," Célette explains.

Firmly established in the region

In 2012, SenseFly was bought out by French group Parrot, a pioneer in the use of drones for fun. The company has maintained its independence within the group, in which it works very closely with other professional drone subsidiaries such as Pix4D and Micasense.

The hub of SenseFly’s activities remains in the canton of Vaud, including its R&D and production and much of its commercial and administrative staff. The company is still firmly attached to the region. "Our company was created by EPFL alumni and many employees and interns in our R&D team are completing their studies there," Célette explains. "The close proximity of other people involved in drones is also an advantage. In more general terms, an affinity with high-tech and precision industries is a historical tradition in the canton of Vaud and this attracts the labor and expertise which enable us to manufacture high-precision and quality products. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation has also managed to create a very favorable climate for the development of drones, to such an extent that Switzerland is currently attracting companies from Silicon Valley."

« At the end of the day, it is down to SPEI to a certain extent that SenseFly actually exists and has been able to create 140 high-added-value jobs, over 120 of them in the canton of Vaud »

A valuable support from the Economic Promotion

"Economic Affairs in Vaud supported SenseFly throughout its creation and growth process," says Jean-Thomas Célette, head of sales and marketing at SenseFly. "First of all via the FIT which granted us a loan which enabled us to incorporate the company, then by means of various subsidies for us to take part in trade fairs and develop our sales abroad. Lastly, the Scale-Up Vaud program really increased our visibility, in particular in the labor market, and allowed us regular exchanges between entrepreneurs who have issues similar to ours.