Company

Our mission

Distran’s mission is to make industrial plants safer and reduce their environmental footprint through the use of sound sensing and technology.

Workers use their ears every day, consciously or unconsciously, to assess machine conditions. Traditional acoustic sensors have long been used for that purpose, but are limited by the background sounds present in typical industrial environments. Phased-array sensors developed by Distran overcome this limitation by spatially filtering the sounds. It becomes possible to locate defects, such as leaks or discharges, while being at a safe distance.

Distran is a spin-off from the Autonomous System Lab, ETH Zurich, developing advanced acoustic sensors for industrial applications.

Distran ultrasound cameras

 

8+

years of scientific research

 

Our cameras are used in

35

countries, and in space

 

World’s

1st

ultrasound camera

 

Our story

Distran’s history

Back in 2011, two engineers, Joël Busset and Florian Perrodin, developed a camera at ETH Zurich, the world’s 4th best university for engineering and technology (Top Universities, 2020), that was able to locate sounds, in order to help locate and save people trapped in debris after disaster.

The acoustic camera was able to produce high-definition images in real-time, a breakthrough for real-world applications. With the support of the Autonomous System Lab, the two founders were able to convince the jury of the ETH Pioneer Fellowship to give them the initial funds necessary to develop the first product and find commercial partners.

A few years later, the company was founded, and its first two strong partnerships with Alstom and RUAG allowed the founders to improve the technology and adapt it to ultrasonic frequencies. A new device was designed and tested in power plants which resulted in multiple success stories, saving hundreds of thousands of euros for the plant owners, not counting the strong positive impact on the environment through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and energy savings.

Currently, Distran employs more than 20 people and keeps a strong focus on R&D, developing novel algorithms to improve ultrasound imaging. Ultrasound cameras are assembled and tested in-house in Zurich. Distran is able to support customers worldwide.

An ultrasound imaging leader

Distran, a pioneer in passive acoustic imaging

Since its inception, Distran has been focused to radically improve the performance of acoustic arrays and to develop technologies at the service of valuable causes, such as environmental or safety related. Advanced algorithms were developed to allow non-specialists to use the device, without extensive training. Throughout years of development, Distran invented many acoustic devices and algorithms allowing a broader use of the passive acoustic imaging technology.

 

2011 | World’s first real-time portable acoustic camera

Back in 2011, acoustic cameras were used by R&D labs to optimize acoustic emissions of cars and other consumer products such as coffee and washing machines. They needed expensive and heavy acquisition boards, weighing more than 20 kgs, to simultaneously acquire dozens of microphone signals. Then, acoustic imaging was done in post-processing. To enable easier field measurements, we developed a novel acquisition board, smaller than a credit card, and directly connected to a computer by USB. The device was not only easily transportable, but also the first acoustic camera producing high definition acoustic images in real-time, enabling users to directly understand the system under study.


2012 | World’s first acoustically transparent spherical camera

Planar acoustic cameras are compact but can only locate sound sources placed in front of the camera. To get a 360° field of view, we patented a novel spherical camera that was acoustically transparent. Existing spherical cameras were either full inside and too small to locate low frequency sounds, or were bigger and packed with cables at the center thereby disturbing wave fronts. Ours, an icosahedron, was fully empty: the key was to hide all the cabling inside the faces of the icosahedron, enabling waves to propagate undisturbed and get an unparalleled precision.


2013 | World’s first ultrasonic camera

So far, acoustic cameras were mostly used to improve the audible properties of objects (such as cars). However, acoustic emissions were already used in the industry to diagnose failures such as partial discharges or gas leaks. Therefore, we decided to design a camera that would be sensitive to these high pitch sounds. In 2013, we got the world’s first ultrasound images using a three-dimensional acoustic imaging algorithm. Ultrasounds visualized were generated by the blades of an electric razor. It was also possible to precisely locate the friction points of the blades, as well as the noise created by the gearboxes.


2018 | World’s first acoustic autofocus

Autofocus is well known in optical cameras, it gives crisp images and prevents from getting any blur at the focus distance. Acoustic cameras also need to be well focused, otherwise images produced are blurry and difficult to understand. To make sure no acoustic source, such as gas leak remains undetected, we developed an acoustic autofocus able to find the distance of a sound source in real-time while getting crisp ultrasound images. In addition, this distance, combined with the amplitude received at the microphones, is used to estimate the source sound level, which in turn is used, for example, to calculate the flow rate of a leak.

 


2020 | World’s first acoustic camera in space

Manned space flights require an atmosphere in spaceships. Any leak, at best, increases the need of resupply of the spaceship, at worst, compromises the safety of the crew. NASA started evaluating the best available solution to find these leaks. After months of tests and space qualification, we received the great news that our camera was going to be sent to the ISS in the following days, making it the world’s first acoustic camera used in space.


2020 | World’s first ATEX acoustic camera

Ultrasound cameras do not require contact with the gas when trying to detect leaks, which is a big advantage. Though, operators may have to enter areas classified as hazardous, because gases potentially leaking may be flammable or explosive. Tools worn or carried by operators must never become an ignition source and manufacturers have to bring the proof of it. That is what the ATEX norm is about. At the end of 2020, Distran certified its camera complies with ATEX, making it the world’s first ATEX acoustic camera.


Developing unique technologies for meaningful applications having real users is a challenging yet rewarding social and professional experience. If you want to see the result of your work and to be part of the next discoveries, apply here.

Our team

Management

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Florian Perrodin
Co-founder & CEO
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Joël Busset
Co-founder & CTO
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Peter Mantel
Vice President of Global Sales
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sophie Winkler-Payot
Financial Director

Supported by

Distran is proud to be supported by the Swiss Climate Foundation, the Bundesamt für Umwelt (Swiss federal office for the environment), ZKB and Energie 360°.

Used by

Distran cameras are used every day by many of the biggest industrial companies in the world to ensure the highest safety standard, to improve their reliability and to reduce their gas emissions.

Switzerland

Contact

Distran AG
Heinrichstrasse 200
8005 Zurich
Switzerland