News Roundup – 03/21/2017

Today we have a custom built, extraordinarily useful emergency response drone out of India, a flying cop drone by Aptonomy, and another drone base-station entrant: Percepto.

An Epic Drone Hero – A team at IIT Kharagpur have created a drone claiming a 7 hour flight time. The drone is aimed towards disaster management, specifically creating a WiFi hotspot in the sky to temporarily replace damaged infrastructure on the ground. From a reasonable height, and with a slight boost in power, WiFi can easily be broadcast over a 1km radius. This is a great idea. One could imagine a mesh network of drones, dispatched from a central hub then fanning out over a city, providing voice-over-IP connectivity to emergency personnel.

The key of course, is battery life. Most drones can barely run for 30 minutes on a charge, especially if they need to travel. It takes a lot of energy to defeat gravity and hover, but it takes even more to climb, accelerate, and fight aerodynamic drag at high speeds. This means there’s a trade-off between distance a drone can travel, and time spent “on-station” at that distance.

It’s just a matter of time before a champion arises in fuel-powered drone hardware because only gasoline has the power-to-weight ratio required for a 24-hour flight. Having a lawnmower engine drive a generator, which then provides the power for precision controlled electrical motors is the winning combination.

On the software front, the IIT drone is an especially interesting academic entrant since the drone can can visually process enough information onboard to find non-crowded spaces to land. This team will be an interesting team to watch.

(P.S. In case you were curious, here’s the (self-proclaimed) world’s fastest production drone at 70 MPH: Teal.)

Paul Blart: Drone Cop – A San Jose startup Aptonomy has set it’s sights on crime. With an imposingly large physical presence, police lights, a siren, and a very bright spotlight, you better not mess with the flying security guard because it also has you on camera.

The big advance here isn’t so much the drone, it’s again the base station. Automation in drones makes no sense if every 30 minutes someone has to manually change the batteries. Aptonomy promises, but doesn’t show any pictures, of their charging dock.

Mark my words, security drones will beat out delivery drones as the first widespread civilian use of drones: their whole job is to bother people!

Percepto – A Fellow Believer – Another Israeli company similar to Airobotics, Percepto is focusing on industrial autonomous drones. In their vision statement they too agree that drones make no sense without a base station (again, no pictures yet). They are also focused on inspection and measurement.

It’s good to see so many companies entering the industrial perception competition. Very interesting to see that the two leaders are Israeli.

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