Skydio – the US manufacturer best-known for its AI-equipped drones that can take on tasks some other drones simply can’t – held a webinar today to discuss the capabilities of Skydio Cloud. First announced at AUVSI, the platform is designed to seamlessly integrate with the rest of the company’s platforms. Let’s see what it does.
The world of commercial drones has evolved, largely, in silos. That means drone hardware manufacturers have usually tended to focus on their drones and operating systems – while software companies have tended to focus on backend tools like fleet management, etc. That’s not always the case, but this scenario has tended to be the rule rather than the exception.
Skydio Cloud, says the company, will help eliminate those silos for users of Skydio products.
Skydio Cloud has been built from the ground up to work with Skydio 2 and Skydio X2 products. The company’s website cleanly outlines the value proposition:
Current enterprise drone operations are siloed between hardware and management solutions. Users are forced to rely on mobile app integrations, or manual uploads to make data broadly available. To unlock the power of drones at scale, flight operations require an interconnected platform to collect all data, search through it, and share it freely across the organization.
Today’s webinar walked through the Skydio architecture and explained how Skydio Cloud is part of an integrated ecosystem of software and hardware designed to reduce friction in the world of Enterprise and First Responder drone operations.
Skydio Enterprise Architecture
The company often uses a graphic to help visualize the different layers of the Skydio system and how they work together. It begins with the hardware: an Enterprise Controller and the Skydio Dock. (The drones are just above that level; you’ll see why in a moment.)
The hardware and a pilot are the bedrock upon which everything else is layered:
We’ll compress here a bit
There’s a long post to be written someday about this graphic alone. We’re here for Skydio Cloud, but it’s worth touching briefly on the layers in between.
Core Autonomy Functions: Refers to the Skydio 2 and X2 drones. With their ability to see and interpret their environment – with the help of Computer Vision, neural networks, and the powerful NVIDIA Tegra TX2 chip (capable of 1.3 trillion operations per second) – these machines can think. With six 4K cameras on board, they’re capable of seeing and understanding the world around them, including tracking subjects (and predicting where they’ll next move) and avoiding obstacles. This core functionality comes with all of the company’s drones.
Skydio Autonomy Enterprise Foundation: This software unlocks additional functionality, including a full 360° view of an entire scene for rapid situational awareness as well as close proximity flying for highly detailed inspections.
3D Scan and House Scan: We’ve covered 3D Scan before; it’s software that enables Skydio drones to autonomously scan even highly complex structures. House Scan (in conjunction with EagleView) is designed for scanning roofs and identifying anomalies – again, autonomously (after some minimal pilot inputs).
And that brings us to Skydio Cloud
The webinar featured Mike Ross, Skydio’s Product lead. Ross is a former fighter pilot and test pilot who also holds two engineering degrees. He opened by saying that the core abilities of Skydio drones truly differentiates them from the crowd:
We’ve spent a ton of time and building the world’s most intelligent flying machine, and I say that with no lack of understanding of that that means.
Skydio Cloud, he says, helps to tie all of the other systems you’ve seen above together by offering Fleet Management capabilities and wireless Media Syncing (with more functionalities to come). No more messing round with MicroSD cards. It is, he says, a “world of connected flight operations.”
Our vision is to provide a fully integrated, seamless solution for managing your flight operations and data at scale. And in this world, drone hardware seamlessly integrates with cloud services, and those cloud services are wrapped by a set of robust APIs that allows you to build integrations with the business tools and the other products that you’re using in the market, and allows you to easily get data into the platform, and then through those APIs, get that data to where it needs to go to be useful to you.
Skydio Cloud has four key components. The first two – Fleet Manager and Media Sync – are available now, and the other two are coming soon:
This component stores everything about your drones and all mission data securely in a US-based Amazon Web Server (AWS). You can easily review any mission a drone from the fleet was flown, who was piloting, and more. You can see the flight path, video, and other data collected during the mission from a Cloud desktop or via API. Says Ross:
If you want to pull that data out into another business tool, you can easily do that and merge that with other data systems.
There was a live demo during the webinar, where Ross pulled up some earlier flights. The mission path and other relevant data were there in an instant; video captured during the flight played seamlessly.
Media is automatically synced over WiFi, allowing you to easily store, search and share data.
Anyone who has every fumbled with a MicroSD card in the field – they’re often ejected as if hurled by a catapult – can likely relate to the efficiency this will bring. All you have to do is supply the drone with power and connect to a WiFi network.
More features coming soon
Ross also explained more features are en route for Skydio Cloud.
Skydio Streaming will allow real-time viewing of a mission-in-progress over any browser or mobile device. We’ve heard of similar solutions on the market – in fact, we wrote about a secure streaming service created by InDro Robotics (albeit not on DroneDJ).
But this system is made by Skydio, for Skydio users. And there’s no doubt this capability will be useful for First Responders and Enterprise clients, who might want a closer look at what’s taking place in the field – regardless of where the mission is located. We also suspect this feature will also be highly useful for decision-makers following a natural disaster or other catastrophic event – though, of course, it has clear applications for inspections, surveillance, etc.
Skydio Remote Opps
This is also on tap, and we will go hand-in-hand with operations involving the Dock system. An operator will be able to remotely fly missions directly from Skydio Cloud, either indoors or outdoors (with an FAA waiver required for outdoor BVLOS flight). It is, says Ross, “perhaps the thing the company is most excited about.”
This is our ability to use the groundbreaking capabilities that we have within Skydio Autonomy to be able to navigate remotely both indoors and outdoors. We see a tremendous opportunity to do this now, regardless of regulations, in indoors spaces (where the FAA does not have authority), specifically in construction. The ability to rely remotely…with a telepresence capability, to be able to see and explore the project from any angle – that’s incredibly powerful. And we’ll have the ability to do that without any additional regulatory approval as long as it’s indoors.
We wrote recently about a similar solution created by Israel’s High Lander. But this product has been created by Skydio for Skydio products – and in our experience, vertically integrated systems tend to be more seamless.
Now throw Skydio Dock into the mix…
The dock is a charging and safe harbor system a little bigger than a toaster oven that can allow for automated inspections and other regular missions to be carried out autonomously and remotely monitored. Just recently, the FAA issued a Beyond Visual Line of Sight waiver for autonomous flights to be remotely flown by BNSF Railway.
We anticipate the dock will be a very big part of Skydio’s Remote Ops future, carrying out autonomous Enterprise missions and even dispatching drones quickly for First Responders. The “pilot” will be in another location entirely, monitoring a single or multiple drones simultaneously. This will play a very significant role, we believe, in Skydio Cloud capabilities down the road.
Skydio Cloud, says Ross, will also have the ability to integrate with third-party software via Application Programming Interface (APIs). And the platform has some shortcuts built-in to help make those secure tokens and connections quickly. We’re not API experts, but our understanding from the webinar is that this will be a great feature for developers, smoothing the path for third-party integrations.
“This makes it easy to get started with development within seconds,” says Ross.
One thing that stood out toward the end of the webinar was regarding use of Skydio drones by law enforcement for evidence collection, accident scene reconstruction, etc.
As you may have read here before, Skydio has also partnered with Axon, which produces the Taser and Axon body cameras widely worn by police officers. Axon also has a software suite called Axon Evidence, a secure online platform for the management, storing, and sharing of evidential data. Ross says Skydio is already working on securely uploading data directly from the drone to Axon’s evidence cloud:
We are building, right now, the ability to leverage Skydio Media Sync to be able to automatically ingest data into Evidence.com (the Axon software suite). So again, following that same workflow: Going and flying that vehicle, coming back, plugging it into power… Now, instead of that data coming into the Skydio Cloud, it actually goes direct, as evidence objects, into Evidence.com with no further action required (and with all relevant metadata tagged).”
Currently, says Ross, some officers spend hours moving data from MicroSDs to hard drives to this portal. So the efficiency of this kind of auto-upload is clear.
With each webinar and announcement, the overall Skydio picture becomes more apparent. It’s very cohesive, using a growing software suite specifically designed to take full advantage of the capabilities of Skydio drones – and full advantage of its growing number of partnerships.
In combination with software offerings like 3D Scan and hardware like the Skydio Dock, it’s a vision very much ready for the future.
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