Drones that can fly and steer themselves show promise for tasks such as carrying urgent medical supplies or making farming more efficient. But to be truly independent, they also need to launch, land, and take care of themselves on the ground without human help.
Startup Airmada thinks this robotic ground station provides the answer.
Airmada is working on drones that act as autonomous security guards to watch over industrial facilities. Its robotic ground station stores a drone until it is needed, and then opens up and folds out a launchpad so it can take off.
Airmada says that its drones—and its boxes—could be stationed around sites such as warehouses and work yards so companies can easily perform remote security patrols or respond more quickly when an alarm is tripped. When a drone is needed, it would pop out of its box, fly to the place in question, and stream back video to security staff over the Internet.
After a drone completes its mission, it lands back on its launchpad and folds back inside its box. A mechanism inside can swap out the drone’s battery and recharge it.
Dan Danay, Airmada’s cofounder and CEO, hopes to see his first drones and ground stations deployed by customers this year. His company is focused on the security market, but Danay predicts that systems that allow drones to launch, land, and recharge on their own will be needed to make other applications, such as package delivery, practical and cheap at large scale.
“Commercial drones have a lot of potential in many industries, but as long as you have to have a human operate on the site, you’re very limited,” he says. “One of the main benefits of drones is being able to do things without a lot of human labor.”