Autonomy in the air


Daedalean is a Zürich-based startup; our mission is to make flying safer than ever by replacing and outperforming the human pilot on every measurable scale. We build the world's first autonomous flight control system, focusing on perception first.

The Opportunity

After more than a century of powered aviation the navigation, guidance and control of aircraft is still a very manual affair, with many functions relying directly on the human pilot. This presents a technical hurdle to expanding the economic applications of flight. Today flying is very safe -- as long as you fly commercial and in non-saturated air spaces. General aviation's safety level will have to increase, and a denser use of air space (e.g. by electric flight and urban mobility) can only be enabled if the bottle-neck of safety level with human(s) in the loop is removed. Alongside with safety, the long-term trend of growing demand and cost reduction requires new levels of automation and automony and is the industry's next growth step. Replacing the human with modern robotic systems is a crucial enabler for growth of the existing aviation market and for emergence of whole new markets in affordable air mobility.

The Challenge

Safety is tightly regulated in aviation and rightly so because it has made flying one of the safer means of transportation. Yet these regulations and the built-in desire for proven solutions also present a barrier to the adoption of new technology. There is no incremental path from uncertified UAV control to certification for personal transport (DAL-A), nor one from current DAL-A level avionics to full autonomy. To justify the absence of a human pilot we need to build a system that is sufficiently deterministic to pass certification, yet can deal with unexpected situations.

The Innovation

Relying on our expertise in robotics, computer vision and machine learning, as well as a thorough foundation in classical systems engineering, avionics and piloting, we have set out to build guidance navigation and control systems that replace and outperform the human pilot on every measurable scale. To autonomously fly in VFR, without relying on extra rules or infrastructure, requires that navigation, guidance and collision avoidance are able to use visual information first and last, alongside other instruments currently available in the cockpit. Our visual systems provide situational awareness and semantic understanding to safely guide any aircraft from take-off to landing.

TEAM: 40+ staff, 8 PhDs, 7 pilots

With pedigrees from Google, SpaceX, DLR, Rolls-Royce, CERN and top university labs, we have the talent for the job.

Luuk van Dijk, Founder and CEO

PhD in Physics (UvA, RuG). Google (Gmail, Maps, Go), SpaceX (flight software).

Anna Chernova, Co-founder and CPO

BSc in Physics (СПбГУ), mathematical biology (Univ. of Oxford) and bioinformatics (NIMR MRC). Google (Maps). PPL(A) student (30 hrs), PPL(H) license holder (270 hrs).

Andrea Schlapbach, CCO

MSc in Physics/Chemistry (ETHZ). Swiss Re, SIX Group, Hexagon/Leica Geosystems, FLARM (co-founder), SAFEmine COO/CFO (co-founder). EASA LAPL/SPL/FI(S) (over 2000 hrs), UAV expert.

Yair Reem, CFO

BSc in Electrical Eng. (Technion), MPA (Hertie), AMP (Wharton). BeyondBlack: Co-founder and MD. Advisor: Storytelling and Strategy. Hasso Plattner Ventures: General Partner and CFO.


Dr. Daniel Danciu

PhD Artificial Intelligence

Babeș-Bolyai University. Google (Shopping, Flights), YouTube (Live, Cast, API).

Advisor on software development

Prof. Dr. Thomas Hofmann

Data Analytics Lab ETHZ

PhD Computer Science, Postdoctoral Fellow (MIT and UC Berkeley), Co-founder / Chief Scientist for OpenText, Dir Eng and co-site Lead (Google ZH), Co-director Max Planck-ETH Center for Learning Systems.

Daedalean Angel Investor and Advisor

Reza Madjidi

CEO of ConsuNova

BSc Computer Science & MBA in Technology Management. FAA Systems & Equipment DER certification auditor, trainer, consultant. Atego, VP Global Services. HighRely Inc., cofounder.

Advisor on avionics certification

Emmanuel Mogenet

Former Head of Google Research Europe

DEA/MS Computer Science. Google (Sr.Eng. Mgr, Head of Research), Apple (Sr. Scientist), Sony Pictures.

Daedalean Investor, Board member and Advisor


Generally Awesome Engineer (Zurich, CH)

Your role: to come up with algorithms and code to completely and reliably replace the human pilot, only bound by the laws of Nature and rules of the air. Preferred qualifications and experience: be smart, get stuff done, at least 5 years of hardcore C++ software engineering experience, proven research abilities, and applied engineering skills.

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FPGA/ASIC and Machine Learning Engineer (Zurich, CH)

Your role: to deliver perfectly optimized low-level implementations of high-level algorithms developed by our engineering teams.

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Senior Software Engineer - Annotation & Machine Learning Tools (Minsk, BY)

Your role: To develop, improve and maintain image and video processing tools for our Data Annotation team, supporting the development of our neural networks-based algorithms.

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2020-03-31 EASA and Daedalean Created Concepts of Design Assurance for Neural Networks

Yesterday, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Daedalean published a report on Concepts of Design Assurance for Neural Networks. The report is the result of the joint project aimed to investigate the challenges and concerns of using Neural Networks in aviation. The results of the project will serve as a key enabler towards the certification and approval of machine learning in safety-critical applications onboard aircraft.

2019-12-12 Daedalean receives a €2,3 mln Horizon 2020 grant from the European Commission

Daedalean became one of the latest recipients of the grant awarded by European Commission under its European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator Pilot programme. We are one of 75 startups selected from 1800+ applicants, which ranks Daedalean among the top 4% of European tech startups. The funding is provided for a two year project and will be spent for the continuous delivery and launch to the market of our main technology product related to the autonomous flight control.

2019-11-15 Daedalean and Honeywell collaborate on vision-based flight control for General Aviation and eVTOL

Daedalean and Honeywell, Inc. have signed an agreement on joint testing and technological partnership in developing solutions for autonomous takeoff, landing and GPS-independent navigation and collision avoidance for GA aircraft and electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (eVTOL). Additionally, Honeywell Ventures has joined the Swiss startup’s pool of investors, the amount and conditions undisclosed.

2019-09-17 Daedalean and UAVenture prepare to launch a new vision-based guidance system to the market

UAVenture and Daedalean have published a teaser video announcing a new guidance system for professional UAVs. The system is called Magpie and provides unrivaled AI-powered functions – vision based identification of emergency landing sites during flight, as well as visual navigation that helps sustain GPS outages – in a less than 500g package, and completely integrated with the AirRails flight controller: no additional complex setup & coding required. No pre-marking of landing spots is required, Magpie is able to operate without pre-surveying of the area and recognise dynamic obstacles on the ground. The product will be available soon for the users of AirRails, UAVenture’s flight control system for professional drones.

2019-07-31 Daedalean development review Q2 2019

Watch to learn the features of the AI-autopilot for the autonomous flight – computer vision-based flight control – already demonstrated: situation awareness and perception, detecting flying obstacles, GPS-independent simultaneous localisation and mapping, recognizing obstacles on the ground and safe landing advisory. On the roadmap: wire detection and more.

2019-07-29 Daedalean announced new funding round

This additional round brings the total amount of the company funding to CHF 11.8 million (nearly $12 mln). The funding round is led by Carthona Capital. Other investing VCs are Redalpine and Amino Capital. Along with them, three former engineering managers of Daedalean’s founder and CEO, Dr Luuk van Dijk, back in his times at Google, are investing as business angels. Dr Harald Nieder, Partner at Redalpine, is joining Daedalean’s board as an observer.

2019-05-24 Daedalean and EASA launch Innovation Partnership Contract

On 8 May 2019 Daedalean and EASA concluded a fruitful 3 day workshop to kick off their Innovation Partnership Contract (IPC). The project titled “Concepts of Design Assurance for Neural Networks” aims to examine the challenges posed by the application of Neural Networks in aviation, in the broader context of allowing Machine Learning and more general Artificial Intelligence on board aircraft. Experts from EASA and Daedalean are bundling their expertise to create concepts and safety standards for the application of this branch of Artificial Intelligence in safety critical avionics. The project is expected to run through January 2020 when a final report will be presented.

2019-05-12 Daedalean and Volocopter conduct autonomy-enabling flight tests using artificial intelligence and computer vision technologies

Update:Video released.

Daedalean and Volocopter conducted joint flight tests on Wednesday 27 th March 2019 at the airfield in Bruchsal (D) in order to test Daedalean’s Visual situational awareness system (“Raven”) on board an experimental Volocopter. The tests demonstrated crucial environmental perception capabilities for visual navigation and collision detection in landing and en-route scenarios, using 3 high definition cameras mounted outside the fuselage of the aircraft, the data from which are fed to the on-board computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms.