You’ve probably heard about Skydio’s new feature, Skydio 2, which will autonomously scan a structure in three dimensions. We’re now getting a clearer picture of this feature, and it’s pretty spectacular.

When Skydio recently launched its Skydio X2 series of drones for the military and First Responders, there was talk of another software feature coming soon: A 3D scan feature. That’s a pretty in-demand function of drones (or at least drone software) these days, especially when it comes to enterprise/industrial use. Modeling in 3D provides really useful data that can be used for calculations like, say, the volume of a giant pile of road salt or the progress of an open-pit mine.

Data is the new oil

It’s been said before, and it’s true. Data is the new oil. And the ability of drones to gather data from the world around them in ways never previously imaginable is one of their most compelling features. And remember: ‘Data’ means different things for different sensors. FLIR cameras gather thermal data — and have proven an indispensable tool for fire crews, police, building inspectors, even search and rescue teams. Multispectral sensors produce data that tells the story of crop health.

Even a regular camera is a sensor, and a photograph is data. Hundreds of photographs, stitched together to form a 3D model, is rich data. That’s why there are a number of popular paid drone apps available that will assist even a basic commercial hobbyist drone to capture 3D models. Simply input a perimeter for the area you need to scan and the required resolution. Start the program and the drone will fly the route, stopping at pre-determined points to take photos. Hundreds (and hundreds) of photos, each showing the view from above but from a slightly different perspective to the subsequent image, are then processed in the cloud to return a 3D model.

The Skydio scan

All this background tells you why a 3D scanning feature is significant — and even more significant when the software comes from the same manufacturer as the drone. Skydio has an excellent reputation when it comes to AI and spooky intuitive tracking, so the prospect of the drone being able to carry out this task with ease is pretty tantalizing. We’d really been waiting to see more about this feature. And Skydio’s website hints at the value proposition for an enterprise or industrial user.

Skydio products change the game for asset inspection. No more white-knuckle piloting to get the data you need. Fly in close proximity to structures and automate data capture.

Skydio.com

And this is the point. If automation — and more specifically, AI-enhanced automation — can simplify the task of capturing data without the “white-knuckling” some methods may involve, why not? Clearly, this a main reason why Skydio pursued not only the scanning software, but also the Skydio Dock, a charging station the Skydio can take off from and autonomously land on in between missions. With a setup like this, the data-gathering aspect of a routine mission could be completely automated. The Skydio could fly the mission every day, two days, week — without any human input.

What’s more, it would be able to fly complex missions, like this:

A screen grab showing a Skydio 2 in scanning mode

Linkedin post

That’s enough for context. Well, maybe one more bit. This LinkedIn post happened to catch our attention. It was from Tom Moss, Skydio’s COO:

Today is a huge day for #skydio as we announce a $100M Series C raise, new vehicles, and new verticals. For me though, this video is the most amazing thing we’ve shared today… This is absolutely a glimpse into the future and the transformation we are poised to unleash. Couldn’t be prouder to be working with such a great team. 

Without further adieu

Ready for that video? Here you go:

Skydio Scan

Skydio has a vision

More on this later, but Skydio has rapidly emerged as a force to be reckoned with on the global scale. This concept of using AI to automate hugely complex jobs (like capturing images from within a complex structure) is big.

And when you couple that with things like a recharging dock, enabling repeatable scheduled tasks?

Well, that’s even bigger. Just wait and see.

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