Flying High: Why UVL’s Eugene Grankin Wants to Make Drones a Staple of Big Businesses

Flying High: Why UVL’s Eugene Grankin Wants to Make Drones a Staple of Big Businesses 

Eugene Grankin, founder and CEO of UVL Robotics, explains how he aims to revolutionise inventory and delivery logistics with drones.

Why did you start UVL?

I graduated in Economics and specialised in logistics and supply chain management. I understood the market well and I was searching for the right technology to solve its problems. For example, when I was in charge of logistics management for Shell, I was leading the inventory process, which was very long and expensive because we had to pay people overtime for working over the weekend. That’s when I started thinking about using drones.

So, in 2018, when I met Moosa Al Balushi, who specialises in technology, drones, and robotics and is based in Oman, we decided to found UVL Robotics. With my logistics expertise and my network of warehouse and supply chain managers, I believed we had a chance to solve this issue that I knew many companies like Shell faced with inventory management. And I knew that if we didn’t do it, someone else would.

It took us three to four months to have a prototype and, of course, it wasn’t perfect. I remember that when we made our first demonstration to our first customer, PepsiCo, the scanner didn’t work! But they gave us many chances to make adjustments and improve the product, and eventually, we did it.

We then got accepted by Alchemist Accelerator, one of Silicon Valley’s top-tier business accelerators, in 2020; and we joined Hub71 in 2021, based on Moosa’s suggestion. We started drone deliveries in Oman for Oman Post in 2019 and wanted to explore more opportunities in the UAE and the Middle East. That’s why I moved here three years ago. 

What are the solutions that you offer?

Our product portfolio consists of two drone-based solutions. One is a warehouse inventory service using autonomous smart drones with specialised software for label detection. We optimise a process that was previously done by hand, increasing its speed by 10 times. 

Our second solution is a technology for last-mile delivery. We have electric drones that can fly 20km with up to 5kg-payloads to make deliveries within city limits, and we have hybrid drones that are louder and therefore cannot be used in a city but can cover 120km to deliver up to 10kg-payloads – such as spare parts to a factory or life-saving medicine to hard-to-reach areas. 

The use of drones outdoors is tightly regulated in the UAE. How do you overcome this obstacle?

We’ve obtained experimental permissions from the Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Defence to fly drones over limited zones in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. 

And, as a company, we guarantee the safety, security, and privacy of our technology. For example, we don’t use any cameras on outdoor drones, we have anti-collision algorithms, etc.

What kind of clients do you work with?

Our focus is large enterprise customers that have different facilities globally. For example, we started working with Aramex in Oman and from there, we have expanded with them to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. They already connected us to five of their commercial routes in Abu Dhabi. And we are providing inventory services to big companies globally, including PepsiCo, Kimberly Clark, and Kraft Heinz, generating around $1.5 million in 2023. 

What is your business model? 

On the inventory side, we’re providing a full service that works like a subscription model based on the stock volume, because our clients have different facilities and different regions. 

For our second solution, we either charge by delivery or we can agree on a fixed payment fee for a certain number of deliveries and drones over a specific period. Our service is fully automated from loading to delivery to the end customer. We also offer two types of landing platforms: one comes automatically with the service for simple landing, and the other includes smart lockers if the client needs them to collect and store parcels.

How do you feel about making this jump from big corporate to your own business?

I wanted to improve some of my skills and go out of my comfort zone. I’m ambitious, I have a lot of energy, and I like being my own boss. This would have been very difficult for me at a company like Shell. So, I was just thinking that if I tried, I could succeed. I didn’t think about fear and failure. That’s the entrepreneurial mindset.

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