Back to the future: Celebrating 10 years of Propeller

Happy 10th birthday, Propeller

It feels like just yesterday that we wrote an anniversary post celebrating five years in business. But it wasn’t just yesterday—it was five years ago.

On May 8, Propeller hits double digits with the big 1-0, and a lot has changed during our decade in business. We’ve grown from a scrappy two-person startup to a mature business with 270 employees and a clear-eyed vision of the future of smart survey tech. 

Today, we’ll share the key milestones that shaped Propeller, what’s changed over the years, and our product vision for the future.

Our starting point: Make worksite data easier to use

Picture this: It’s 2014. A software nerd (Francis) and a robotics nerd (Rory) decide to join forces. Some say the construction industry has been slow to adopt technology, but Francis and Rory think technology companies have been slow to build the right tools. So they hire Keat, an aerospace engineer and Propeller’s official Employee #1, to help them transform the face of civil construction.

2014 Propeller polaroids

They knew earthwork teams needed a faster and easier way to map, measure, and manage their worksites while maintaining the high accuracy of GPS surveying equipment. Survey data was technical, requiring a high level of expertise to understand, which created a barrier between field teams and the data they needed to make decisions. 

That’s when Francis, Rory, and Keat realized the map could become the place where collaboration happens—the foundation for a simpler, faster, smarter workflow.

Our core product: Collaboration built on 3D maps

It was 2015 when 3D mastermind Chris Cooper came on the scene. By then, our trio had created a rudimentary 2D version of a worksite map with linework, but it didn’t give them volumetric data and other actionable insights that relied on elevation data.

At the time, Chris was working on a GIS app for the Australian government, so Francis and Rory asked if it was possible to calculate volumes from 3D images in a web browser. It took Chris just a few days to return the earliest version of the browser-based 3D maps our customers still love using today.

The impact: 3D worksite maps that are accurate enough for experts and easy enough for everyone else.

Then vs. now:
  • In 2015, we made a few more key hires, including Fred Greer (our hardware guru) and Tim Liu (data success). They’re both still here, and we couldn’t have gotten where we are without them.
  • We also landed our first paying customer back in 2015. Today, we have 102,000+ users in over 80 countries and our users spend 76,000 hours a month across all portals.
  • To drive home the importance of 3D volumetrics, Propeller now sees 78,000 volumes calculated monthly.

Propellers impact

Introducing AeroPoints: Making accuracy easy since 2016

The voice of our customers has always been our North Star. So when our customers pointed to accuracy as their biggest challenge with drone surveying, we listened.

AeroPoints, smart ground control

In the early days of Propeller, one of the biggest challenges our customers faced was getting accurate data into the platform. For drone survey data to be useful, it needed to be accurate within 1/10ft (3cm). Back in 2015, the only way to do that was to manually set ground control points (GCPs), which was time-consuming and error-prone.

In 2016, we took our first step toward addressing the accuracy problem with AeroPoints, the world’s first (and only) “smart” ground control. Using AeroPoints, our customers reach a verified 1/10ft accuracy with PPK (post-processed kinematic) drone data—a level of accuracy that was once unthinkable with drones. 

The impact: Easy, reliable survey-grade drone data.

Then vs. now:
  • We’ve since upgraded AeroPoints several times over (they’re currently on version 2.1). 
  • To date, our customers have completed 437,000+ AeroPoints surveys, with a whopping 1.5 million captures.

Picking the right partners

We partnered with Trimble in 2017 to deliver survey-grade drone data solutions for the heavy civil industries―where drones are already doing their best work. Today, Trimble dealers around the world sell Propeller Platform licenses under the name Trimble Stratus.

Propeller PPK and Trimble Stratus

In 2018, we joined forces with DJI and rolled out a fully automated PPK workflow solution—our ultimate solution for fast, easy, and accurate drone surveying from end to end. 

Your win: The accuracy “easy button” for the modern worksite.

Then vs. now:
  • As we’ve grown, we’ve never stopped building partnerships with industry leaders and customers who inspire us, like Suez and Hensel Phelps
  • We’ve broadened our horizons with new hardware, too. PPK-compatible drones now include VTOL drones from our partners at Wingtra and Quantum Systems, empowering our customers to fly further than ever before. 
  • With a new lidar sensor from DJI, surveying vegetated sites with Propeller for original ground topos just got way easier. Propeller’s DJI Zenmuse L2 workflow brings expert support and speed to lidar and photogrammetry surveys. With a fully integrated workflow, anyone can capture a bare earth model accurately—without the hassle and expense. 

Data success and our accuracy obsession

Remember Tim, our data success hire from back in 2015? His attention to detail, expertise, and thorough understanding of our customers’ needs helped lay the groundwork for the feeling that Propeller is more than a technology partner—we’re an extension of our customers’ teams.

This accuracy obsession wowed our customers and spurred our growth, taking us from a pantry-sized co-working space in Sydney to a much larger office and another address in Denver, our US headquarters. Add in our teams in Europe and the Philippines, and we’re a truly international business. 

Your win: Global support from a team that cares as much about your business as you do.

Then vs. now:
Despite shared global challenges over the past decade, we’ve surged ahead at every step thanks to our incredible team and the customers who have shaped us. 
Here’s a quick timeline:
  • Series B-1 funding round raises $18M.
  • Propeller reaches 100 employees, doubling our staff over just two years.
  • Series B-2 funding round raises $15M.
  • We celebrate our successes with a company-wide retreat in Vietnam.
  • Propeller reaches 200 employees, doubling yet again in just over two years. (Notice a trend?)
  • Mobile app launches.
  • We roll out a few GIS upgrades, including Media and hydrology tools.
  • Lidar processing launches.

Here’s to the next decade

If we could sum up the last decade and welcome the new one in just a few words, we’d say: Propeller is relentlessly innovative, collaborative, and customer-driven. It’s our superpower—and we’ll never stop using that power to make worksites work better.


We’re happy to show you how Propeller can power your worksite, and boost productivity. Simply request a demo now.

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