- Joel Hans
Israeli Startup Brings Autonomous, Transformers-Like Flight to Industry
Israeli drone startup Airobotics recently unveiled not only its newest drone, but also a potentially game-changing base station, dubbed the Airbase, which helps enable fully continuous operation. By combining fully autonomous flight—self-deployment and landing included—with the Airbase’s functionality, it seems that Airobotics has developed the world’s first truly industrial-strength drone.
The drone is capable of 30-minute autonomous flights, after which it will land itself on top of the Airbase, where it is lowered down and held onto with a robotic arm. This is where the magic happens—the Airbase is capable of making fully-automatic payload and battery exchanges, and also offer multiple different payload options.
And if the base station reminds you of one of Michael Bay’s Transformers, that’s probably exactly what Airobotics was looking for—the company has named this entire offering the “Optimus.”
For industrial applications where drones can come in handy, there are two typical options: “drone as a service,” or owning and operating a typical offering. The former comes with high costs and a lack of on-demand deployment. The latter means that certain members on staff will be further burdened by having to train on operating the drone, and could achieve less-than-ideal results. Airobotics offers something in the middle—owning the drone, but not needed to onboard additional resources to keep it flying smoothly and safely. Optimus includes cloud software to help any member on staff create “missions” for the drone without needing any piloting skills.
The company sees drones being used for a variety of industrial applications, such as mapping or measuring stockpiles for inventory and waste, or even routine maintenance inspections in locations where risk to employees might be too great. The ability to send a drone in for an emergency response—such as a potential gas leak—could save lives, and security missions will help keep facilities locked down.
Imagine having one payload for routine maintenance tasks, and another payload for nighttime security duties—the switch-over happens automatically, without any delay in operation, and to exactly the payload specifications a customer requires.
Video: YouTube user Airobotics UAV
Safety is always a concern when implementing new technology in any workplace, and it seems that Airobotics has done much of the necessary legwork to make sure Optimus is safe, even in emergency situations. The company outfitted this offering with geofencing to ensure it goes only where a customer desires, “return home” functionality, redundant GPS, emergency landing capabilities, and a parachute for the worst-case scenario, however unlikely.
For all its benefits, U.S. customers are currently out of luck—the Part 107 rule from the FAA means that this kind of autonomous flight is out of the question. With any luck, Airobotic’s future success stories will help the U.S. government from impeding the forward flight of drone innovation.
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