Interdrone 2018: The Headlines

The following post was written by Malek Murison.

Every year the Interdrone conference in Las Vegas brings together the drone industry’s biggest and best for three days of discussion, education, networking, announcements, and – of course – no small amount of showing off.

This year was no different. There were more than 120 sessions, panels and keynotes. Not to mention 160 and counting drone manufacturers, service and solution vendors.

With the whole industry converging on a single location for a few short days, Interdrone is often the place where new products and services are launched and partnerships are announced.

As a result, it’s easy to miss out on big moves because there are so many. In case you missed anything from Interdrone 2018, here are this year’s major headlines.

Skydio steps up

Consumer drone company Skydio has been credited with developing arguably the most sophisticated drone on the market today, the R1. With 13 cameras and the NVIDIA Jetson chip you’d usually find on self-driving cars, it’s able to build a picture of the world around it and avoid obstacles while tracking a subject.

Very cool, no doubt. But since its release a few things have become clear about the R1. First, it was pretty expensive – enough to put off all but the most free-spending drone enthusiasts. Particularly when compared with models from market leader DJI.

Second, safely tracking a subject is a great feature – but pilots and aerial photographers want and expect more flexibility than that. Third: it was surely only a matter of time before sense and avoid technology this advanced found a way into commercial drone ops.

With a raft of R1-related announcements at Interdrone, Skydio have managed to tackle all three of those observations.

First of all, the Skydio team has lowered the price of the R1 and released a range of new ‘skills’ – essentially one-touch flight modes. Obviously that’s great news for current and prospective R1 pilots.

Second, and perhaps more significant for the wider industry, the company has announced plans to release an SDK providing access to the Skydio Autonomy Platform and a virtual simulator for third-party developers to play around with.

In practice this means that we could soon see bespoke commercial applications hit the market, harnessing Skydio’s leading computer vision technology and autonomy engine.

Yuneec & 3DR aim to be the go-to for sensitive drone missions

Skydio aren’t the only company set to challenge DJI’s dominance in the commercial space. Yuneec and 3DR also chose Interdrone to make a big announcement, unveiling 3DR Government Services, a new company that will aim to provide a secure, US-based and open drone platform for U.S Government agencies.

Essentially the move will combine 3DR’s commercial software and Yuneec’s hardware, with a few additions and integrations from fellow Dronecode members Autodesk and Esri.

The first product from 3DR Government Services is the Yuneec 3DR H520-G.

Parrot eyes commercial market

French drone manufacturer Parrot launched a couple of new drones in Las Vegas last week.

The first – and perhaps this doesn’t really count as ‘new’ – is a commercial package featuring the recently-released Anafi drone and a one-year subscription to Pix4Dmodel, Parrot’s 3D modeling software.

Parrot are hoping that combining their drones with established solutions from the wider Parrot family of companies (Pix4D, SenseFly etc) – they will more easily appeal to architects, roofers and construction workers, among others.

Second on Parrot’s new release list is the SenseFly eBee X fixed-wing drone, which has been designed to offer payload modularity and a huge 90-minute flight time. The eBee X can take on all sorts of mapping jobs, from land surveying and topography to crop mapping and environmental monitoring.

FAA Makes Clear Stance on Remote ID & Tracking

We’ve known for a while now that the FAA is keen to introduce ways for drones to be remotely identified and tracked during flights.

During his keynote speech, administrator Dan Elwell doubled down on his belief that remote ID was both reasonable and necessary.

“The national airspace system is no place for hide and seek,” he said.

However, Section 336 and the subsequent inability of the FAA to bring in new regulations for recreational pilots is still very much the elephant in the room. “The FAA’s hands are tied”, said Elwell.

“As soon as this gets resolved, rest assured that we are ready to move forward as quickly as possible.”

The current FAA Reauthorization package is working its way through the Senate for discussion at the moment, so there may be news on this soon.

Want to know what else is going on in the drone world? Check out our post on 4 Conversations in The Drone Industry Right Now.

Malek Murison

Malek Murison is a freelance tech journalist working closely with clients in the drone industry.

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