If you have been looking forward to the day when the autonomous drone startup Skydio becomes a true competitor of DJI, you could take today’s announcement bad. You may have thought that after two noteworthy drones that he did not enough fulfill their full potential, Skydio’s decision to build its next flagship flying camera exclusively for business and military markets meant that it had been entirely taken by consumers.
But Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio, says The Verge has just started – there are more consumer drones on the way.
“We have more products coming to the market that we’re excited about,” says Bry, saying that the timing was simply right to expand into the corporate market as well. In both markets, he says, the goal is not to try to beat DJI by copying DJI, but rather to build drones that can automatically do things that currently require an experienced pilot to take off.
“Being able to follow you is something an experienced pilot could do; being able to inspect a home is something an experienced pilot can do; being able to inspect a bridge is something an experienced pilot can do. How do we put it in the software so that anyone can take advantage of it? “Bry asks rhetorically.
Skydio is seen building specific “AI skills” to do each of these things, starting with some specific examples that use the drone’s cameras to map the area around him first, then automatically shoot a series of high resolution images that can be sewn together to create a scan of a house, bridge or other inspection facilities:
Bry claims to see “skill” opportunities even outside the business – particularly in the world of cinematography, where operating a camera also requires specialist skills, and where flying cameras could theoretically make almost impossible camera movements for filmmakers in the field.
But he also thinks that a different business model may be the way to go – whether it’s choosing the new consumer-grade Skydio X2 or Skydio 2, business customers will pay for a subscription service to these new skills rather than just buying drones. on the shelf.
If this idea of skill-driven drone upgrades seems familiar, you might be thinking promising launch of 3D Robotics pitch drones from several years ago, before it was blown away by DJI’s drone line which was advancing rapidly, reliably and relatively conveniently.
But history may not repeat itself. Now, governments and industries have become more wary of products made in China – to the point the United States Department of the Interior has grounded its DJI fleet. Skydio is betting that his made in the USA pedigree will help him get contracts with corporate and military clients that DJI can’t touch right now. In fact, the company already has contracts with US Air Force, Army and DEA, relationships wired.
This does not mean that Skydio is ready to become a supplier of weapon systems, or necessarily help the police to monitor citizens. The company new “Principles of involvement and responsible use” explicitly states that Skydio will not put weapons on his drones and opposes fully automated weapons in general – and Bry tells me that Skydio would not work with a company that plans to put weapons on its drones.
“We believe that drones should be involved in emergency response situations, not active surveillance, and I think it’s a fairly clear line,” he says, adding that Skydio plans to be as involved as he can in the decision-making process related to autonomous drones . “Send a product out there, wash your hands … that’s not our approach,” says Bry.
That said, the company is already working with at least one police department in Chula Vista, California, and it’s unclear how it would know if its drones had been abused to patrol protesters or other citizens. For now, Bry focuses on positive use cases, such as how drones could theoretically serve as a kind of flying body camera and perhaps how they could allow multiple objective observers (like, say, a police captain ) to do a better job of assessing a remote situation.
Bry isn’t saying how much Skydio X2 will still cost or what we can expect from future consumer drones. (Does the X2’s new folding capability mean that we can finally get a follow-me foldable drone from your pocket, purse or messenger? No comment.) It also won’t say if there will be any way to use Skydio’s new 360 situational view grade with a VR or AR headset – only that they are on the right track. For now, that function is limited to an equirectangular projection (see below for an example) on the integrated screen of the new Skydio Enterprise Controller or on the HDMI output.
And no, there will be no way to pair the next Skydio Enterprise controller, even if you can afford it, with today’s consumer-grade Skydio 2 If you want a better consumer-level autopilot drone than the Skydio 2 and the compromises that derive from its three different control schemes, you just have to wait.