Smart Engineering



First Invested





Insects operate autonomously throughout the natural world, and by studying their behaviors and capabilities, Opteran is creating a blueprint for autonomous tech that has potential to transform the industrial landscape.

Leveraging £6m in grant funding, 8 years of research and 600 million years of evolution, James and Alex gathered a deep understanding of how bees see, process and navigate the world. While bees have small brains with only 1 million neurons, they are still capable of sophisticated decision-making and navigation using optic flow to perceive depth and distance. Their brain size also allows us to more easily understand them, and in Opteran’s case, reverse-engineer their brains to produce algorithms requiring no data center, pattern matching or training. Not only is this a far more efficient, robust and transparent way to achieve autonomy, but it means Opteran can produce “silicon brains” that mimic tasks such as seeing, sensing objects, obstacle avoidance, navigation and decision-making that can then be implanted into autonomous technology.

The brains behind Opteran, Professor James Marshall and Dr. Alex Cope, as well as its commercial champion, David Rajan, convinced us with their unique know-how and capabilities in brain biomimicry, their technological edge and outstanding execution to date. In a recent trial, Opteran was able to control a sub-250g drone, with complete onboard autonomy, using fewer than 10,000 pixels from a single low-resolution panoramic camera. We’re thrilled about everything more to come.