Skydio says it doesn’t spin away from consumer drones, doesn’t arm its self-flying technology

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If you were impatiently waiting for the day when Skydio, the autonomous flying drone start-up, becomes a real competitor to DJI, you could hardly take today’s announcement. You might have assumed that after two awesome drones that didn’t enough To realize their full potential, Skydio’s decision to build its next flying flagship camera exclusively for the corporate and military markets meant that it was done entirely with consumers.

But Skydio CEO Adam Bry says The edge it’s just getting started – there are more consumer drones on the way.

“We have more products on this market that excite us,” reveals Bry, saying that the time was simply right to also develop in the corporate market. 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 expert pilot to succeed.

“Being able to follow you is something an expert pilot could do; being able to inspect a house is something that an expert pilot can do; being able to inspect a bridge is something that an expert pilot can do. How can we put this in software so that everyone can benefit from it? Bry asks rhetorically.

Skydio sees himself building specific “AI skills” to do each of these things, starting with a few specific examples that use the drone’s cameras to first map the area around him, then automatically take a series of high-resolution images which can be assembled together to create an analysis of a house, bridge or other facility to be inspected:

Bry says he also sees “skill” opportunities outside the company – especially in the cinematography world, where using a camera also requires expert skills, and where flying cameras could theoretically make camera movements that are almost impossible for filmmakers in the field.

But he also thinks that a different business model might be the way to go – whether they choose the new foldable Skydio X2 or the consumer grade Skydio 2, corporate customers will pay for a subscription service to this news. skills rather than just buying off-the-shelf drones.

If this idea of ​​upgrading drones based on skills seems familiar to you, you may be thinking of the promising launch of 3D robotics of robotics from several years ago, before it was dislodged by the range of DJI evolving then quickly, reliable and relatively affordable. drones.

But history may not repeat itself. Now governments and industries are more wary of products made in China – to the point that the US Department of the Interior has anchored its fleet made by DJI. Skydio is betting that his US-made pedigree will help him secure contracts with commercial and military customers that DJI cannot reach at the moment. In fact, the company already has contracts with the US Air Force, the military, and the DEA, reports Wired.

This does not mean that Skydio is ready to become a supplier of weapons systems, or necessarily help the police monitor citizens. The company’s new “Principles of Engagement and Responsible Use” explicitly state that Skydio will not put weapons on its drones and oppose 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 either.

Photo: Skydio

“We think drones should be involved in emergencies, not active surveillance, and I think it’s a pretty clear line,” he said, adding that Skydio plans to be involved as best he can in developing policies around autonomous drones. “You ship a product there, you wash your hands … that’s not our approach,” says Bry.

That said, the company already works with at least one police department in Chula Vista, California, and it’s unclear how it would know if its drones were being abused to monitor protesters or other citizens. For now, Bry is focusing on positive use cases, such as how drones could theoretically serve as some kind of flying body camera, and perhaps how they could leave more objective observers (like, for example, a police captain) do a better job of assessing a situation from a distance.

Bry doesn’t say how much the Skydio X2 will cost, or what we can expect from future consumer drones. (Does the X2’s new folding capability mean that we can finally get a foldable pocket drone suitable for messengers? No comments.) Nor will it say whether there will be a way to use the new 360 from Skydio. situational degree view with VR or AR headset – only that I’m on the right track. For now, this functionality is limited to an equirectangular projection (see an example below) on the integrated screen of the new Skydio Enterprise controller or 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 quality consumer flying drone than the Skydio 2 and the compromise that comes with its three different control regimes, you will have to wait.

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