King Young snags US$14m Series A++ raise, diving deep in robot-assisted inspection

Its products are employed to conduct day-to-day inspection operations throughout the country's vast railway and city metro networks, helping relieve workload and bolster efficiency.

King Young (景曜科技), a mobile inspection robot developer, has announced the close of a Series A++ round of financing valued at close to 100 million yuan (US$14.08 million), Chinese media reported yesterday.

Shenzhen Capital Group and Great Stone Capital were the lead backers while Jolmo, LimVC and Huayuan Investment also participated in the raise.

Proceeds from this round will be spent on product R&D, talent recruitment and product system upgrade.

Founded in 2013, King Young is one of the earliest pioneers in using wheeled autonomous robotics in overhauling China’s rail transport and inspection sector.

With its head office in Nanjing, capital of eastern Jiangsu Province, the startup specializes in the development and production of self-adaptive robots combining a suite of cutting-edge technologies.

They include high-precision 3D machine vision, multimodal perception, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), hybrid force/position control.

From rail inspection to warehouse logistics

When it started out, King Young chose to break into the rail transport inspection services as the entry point to monetize its innovations.

It later branched out into other use cases such as electricity monitoring and inspection as well as in-warehouse logistics and material handling.

More than 10 years since its inception, King Young has evolved into a major player in the market for autonomous inspection robots.

Its products are employed to conduct day-to-day inspection operations throughout the country’s vast railway and city metro networks, helping relieve workload and bolster efficiency.

Mechanical arms mounted atop wheeled robots can reach corners or edges inside a dimly lit rail tunnel that are inaccessible to human workers.

According to some Chinese media reports, these devices are at least 30% more efficient relative to the traditionally manual mode of operation.

After its initial successes in the transport and energy sectors, King Young now aspires to establish a toehold in aerospace and military industries.

No reason for complacency

“The (King Young) team has profound technical expertise, and has a full grasp of underlying core technologies like 3D machine vision, deep learning and smart compound robotics,” Shenzhen Capital Group, the lead backer, said in a statement.

“(The firm) has rich experience in serving rail transport and electricity sectors, propelling their digital and intelligent transition.”

Nonetheless, despite the backing of big-name investors, King Young has no reason for complacency.

Gosion-Robot (国巡机器人), Tetrabot (天创机器人), Brohex (北新智能) and Yijiahe (亿嘉和) are among some local rivals King Young will need to take on if it were to survive, let alone thrive, cutthroat competition in the field of inspection robotics.

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Ni Tao

Ni Tao is the founder and editor-in-chief of cnrobopedia. Prior to cnrobopedia, he had a full decade of experience with a major state-run English-language newspaper as a tech reporter and opinion writer. He is also a communications specialist, having provided consultancy services to established firms like Siemens, Philips, ABinBev, Diageo, Trip.com Group (Nasdaq: TCOM, HK: 9961), Jianpu Technology (NYSE: JT) and a handful of domestic startups. A graduate of Fudan University, he writes widely about China's business and tech scenes and other topics for global publications including South China Morning Post, SupChina, The Diplomat, CGTN, Banking Technology, among others, and tries to impart his experience to students at Fudan University Journalism School, where he is a part-time lecturer. When he's not writing about robotics, you can expect him to be on his beloved Yanagisawa saxophones, trying to play some jazz riffs, often in vain and occasionally against the protests of an angry neighbor. Get in touch with him by dropping a line at nitao0927@gmail.com.

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