YC backed Hydrogen Airships launches

Hey y’all! Welcome back.

In this issue we’ll look at:

- a blimp that does electrical grid inspections for a fraction of the cost of the traditional way (helicopters)

- using Wi-Fi to find the exact screw you need in a hardware store

- a handful of links to interesting things happening this week. (like a group of friends that are building a biological computer)

A YC-backed autonomous blimp company launches

Hylight, a hard tech startup going through the current YC batch (S23), is building autonomous blimps to inspect electric and gas infrastructure. They launched their startup on Hacker News earlier this week.

How big is utility inspection?
The traditional way to inspect the electric grid is by using helicopters. Helicopter inspections can cost anywhere from $1600 per mile(!!) to upwards of $30,000 per day(!!).

Although it’s incredibly expensive for utilities to inspect their infrastructure, it helps the utilities prevent even more expensive downtime through preventative maintenance when issues are detected. It’s a similar story for gas pipelines.

With over 45 million miles of electric and pipeline infrastructure globally, it’s an enormous problem to solve.

Hylight is tackling this market with autonomous airships.

Inspection as a Service with Autonomous Airships

Hylight’s bet is that they can make utility inspections much cheaper by using autonomous airships instead of helicopters. Their first paid flight is coming within the next couple of weeks where they’ll be selling inspections as a service.

The airships a good size smaller than the typical blimp you might be picturing. They’re filled with helium or hydrogen until buoyancy is reached.

The ship has a hydrogen tank onboard that transforms the hydrogen into power in order to propel itself along the infrastructure it’s inspecting.

The hydrogen powers everything on the airship including sensors, the two engines on either side of the ship, etc.

One of the two engines used to propel and navigate the airship

The airship moves slowly, but Hylight points out that this is an advantage over alternatives like plane drones, which are too fast for this application.

Hylight says it’s system can fly for up to 20hrs with a 10kb payload capacity.

The company was started last year by four cofounders (Thomas, Martin, Théo, and Josef) at UC Berkeley.

Finding the screw you need using Wi-Fi

Andrew Hart, founder of Hyper, posted a cool video of their indoor wayfinding technology on X this week. (Definitely recommend taking a minute to watch the video, it’s seriously awesome.)

The demo starts with a user opening an app inside a hardware store. The user is looking for a specific screw. Hyper’s app shows the user a real-time map and AR to guide them to the exact bay where their specific screw is stocked.

Hyper uses WiFi + onboard phone sensors + ML to locate a customer precisely inside a store. They can figure out where you are in a physical space with <1m accuracy.

Legacy installations of indoor wayfinding require additional hardware beacons and the accuracy isn’t as good as the Hyper approach.

Around the web

Here’s some cool stuff I found this week related to hard startups.

1. Google shows rare inside look inside massive TPU datacenter. Pretty cool to have an inside look at the hardware we use to trick rocks into thinking.

2. Astranis (a company building geostationary satellites) announces a new contract using their Arcturus Satellite for a US-government mission. They’re software-defined radio tech let’s them be flexible with missions even after they have deployed a satellite.

3. A couple friends are building a biological computer as part of buildspace’s nights and weekend program. Love the excitement from the friends in the video.

4. An inspiring blog post from Terraform Industries founder Casey Handmer explains why you should work on hardware. It’s good, you should read it if you’ve ever considered working on hardware.

That’s all for today!
Would love to hear your feedback, let me know what you want to see more of in the newsletter. See y’all next week.

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