If it feels like 2018 has been a busy year in the drone industry, that’s because it has. There have been more new products and partnerships than we can count, the launch of the FAA’s integration pilot program, further collaboration between regulators and industry stakeholders around the world and no shortage of success stories.
Here’s a handful from the past few months that are worth looking back on.
Unmanned organ transport
As soon as an organ and a patient in need of a transplant are matched, every second counts in bringing the two together. Delays in the often short journeys between hospitals and medical centers can be the difference between life and death.
Researchers at the University of Maryland have conducted a pilot program to see how suitable drones are for the task. Could they speed up organ transport times without compromising the cargo during transport?
A drone made of battery?
Battery-powered drones have long been held back by limited flight times. In the consumer market, anything offering beyond 30 minutes in the air is pretty much unheard of.
Swapping batteries out isn’t the end of the world of course, but it means pilots have to spend more money to buy spares. It also tends to disrupt creative and commercial sessions while new power is introduced.
Which explains why Impossible Aerospace made such a splash in September.
The California startup’s first drone, the US-1, has been designed from day one to be a flying battery with a camera attached. The focus is on power; the drone’s battery cells are spread around its body. The result is up to two hours of flight time.
It’ll be interesting to see how the market responds to the company’s ‘persistent’ packages in the new year.
Skydio’s developer platform
When Skydio’s R1 drone was launched at the start of 2018, it looked like a milestone: for autonomy, for computer vision and for the drone industry more broadly.
But at the same time it was clear the initial R1 reveal was just a taste of the technology’s potential. In February it was essentially a very expensive drone that could follow you in complicated environments.
But in September Skydio announced a platform that would give developers access to the company’s autonomy engine, opening the door for new use cases and applications, and effectively giving the industry free rein to explore the potential of truly autonomous flight.
You can read more about that here.
A bunch of new LAANC partners
Back in April, the FAA launched its Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) initiative. The idea is to work with private enterprise to provide pilots who want to fly in protected airspace with a quick and easy way to get authorization.
The initial rollout included AirMap, Harris Corp, Google’s Project Wing, Skyward and Thales Group. In October the FAA announced nine new LAANC partners: Aeronyde, Airbus, AiRXOS, Altitude Angel, Converge, KittyHawk, UASidekick, Unifly and, perhaps most significantly, DJI.
The Chinese manufacturer dominates the global hardware market and the majority of commercial pilots fly with DJI drones. With that in mind, allowing DJI to provide LAANC services through its own application seems like a no-brainer.
DroneBase and Hangar combine 4D Insights with on-demand pilot network
Back in September we announced a new partnership with drone data analytics platform Hangar.
The ambition is to combine our network of skilled pilots with Hangar’s 4D Insight technology, which provides organizations with data insights across days, weeks, months and years, allowing them to build a more detailed view of project progress.
In practice, Hangar customers can now request a location to monitor, select their desired insight types and choose the capture frequency they want. DroneBase will capture the data and convert the imagery to the requested specifications; Hangar will deliver the insights in as little as 48 hours.
You can read more about our partnership with Hangar here.
Have we caught you in the holiday spirit? Check out our post on reasons to be thankful for drone technology.