There are many industries that are critical to our daily lives that require people to put themselves in harm’s way, travel to remote areas, and perform repetitive, error-prone tasks. Imagine a world where humans don’t have to be exposed to dangerous environments and highly-trained inspectors don't have to travel around to make a quick assessment. Facilities and valuable assets will be monitored frequently and accurately without creating mundane or hazardous work for humans. Work can truly be done remotely – even in the most austere, complex environments – without a human onsite.
Pioneering organizations are already leveraging drone technology to solve many of these operational challenges today, capturing high-quality data faster and keeping people out of harm’s way. Still, a drone operator can only operate one drone in one place at one time. And for drones to get work done remotely, they need to be able to operate safely in a variety of locations and conditions. The value of remote operations by docked drones depends entirely on the aircraft’s ability to fly itself without human supervision – in other words, autonomy.
With world-leading autonomous flight technology, Skydio is on a mission to radically change how industries get work done. Today, we’re excited to share our progress building Skydio Dock™, Skydio Dock Lite™, and Skydio Remote Ops™. The team has been working hard on this solution for years and have now taken the first step towards an exciting new era in drones. With Skydio Dock, intelligent drones will become an integral part of critical infrastructure, enabling workflows without the friction of traditional drone operations, such as training pilots, getting them equipped, and transporting people and equipment to a site.
Skydio Dock enables drones to fly safely with a single off-site operator, or even completely autonomously. World-leading autonomy and technology that’s built and supported in the U.S. ensure a trustworthy solution. Dock allows operators to station drones in harsh outdoor environments or complex indoor facilities at a fraction of the cost, size, and complexity of existing solutions.
Skydio has been working with customers across various industries, honing in on key use cases where an intelligent, docked drone can provide the most value. For example, state departments of transportation are developing programs around Skydio Dock to monitor large areas of construction for highway development, often in remote areas. Leveraging Skydio Dock and Remote Ops is helping transportation agencies keep projects on schedule and people safe — ultimately saving taxpayers’ dollars. We’re proud to work with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on this solution. They’ve seen the value of autonomous drones and have a vision of remote drone operations significantly improving how they get work done.
Energy Utilities are also excited for a future with autonomous, remotely-deployed drones. The Southern Company has been an early access partner with Skydio, providing invaluable feedback for Skydio Dock and Remote Ops, ensuring it’s the ideal solution for their varied needs. Docks will be used at electrical substations for post-event inspections, where drones conduct assessments that can inform better decisions, such as what resources to send to a site and how quickly. In addition to improving safety, these assessments will reduce customer minutes of interruption (CMI) and ensure the many thousands of customers that utilities serve will have fewer disruptions to the power coming to their homes and businesses, and faster response times when it does go out.
Skydio Dock can also operate indoors thanks to AI and vision-based navigation – the first system of its kind to do so in a meaningful way. Now construction firms can leverage Dock for indoor construction monitoring and on-demand visibility in GPS-denied environments. Project managers can track progress in real time and share it with stakeholders across the world. Skilled inspectors can keep an eye on development over the course of repeated Autonomous Missions, or they can take manual control of the drone with Teleop and get a closer look at an area of interest. Allowing experts to visit multiple job sites across the country in a single day offers a substantial improvement in costs, efficiency, and job satisfaction.
Skydio Dock Lite takes indoor operations a step further with its small size and light weight. Dock Lite enables indoor operations in spaces other systems don’t fit, and can even be mounted on a rack or shelf to maximize space savings. With Dock Lite, Skydio 2+ takes off and lands from a cradle where it charges and syncs its data to Skydio Cloud between missions. Dock Lite is ideal for indoor operations where the location is climate controlled, secure, and clean. With Dock Lite, enterprises can have a docked drone anywhere it would be useful, not just anywhere they can fit a dock.
The ideal product for our customers needs to be simple – both in terms of usability and being able to fit it into their existing workflows. To understand how these types of results are possible, let’s explore the core capabilities that make Dock and Remote Ops highly capable and simple at the same time:
- Autonomous Missions – Skydio Remote Ops makes it easy to set up continual monitoring, recurring inspection, and scheduled patrol missions without the need for a pilot. With a few clicks of a mouse and keyboard, teams can monitor progress and detect changes at the speed of relevance. Customers will be able to standardize repetitive inspections to ensure consistent, high-quality data is captured every time. With Skydio Visual Positioning System (VPS), the drone’s flight path and data capture are highly precise – mission after mission after mission – ensuring accurate data sets over time, indoors or outdoors. This opens a world of autonomous gauge reading, jobsite time-lapse photos, and periodic inspections, all without creating repetitive tasks just for inspectors to get a look at things.
- Mission Planner – Creating, editing, and managing Autonomous Missions can be done easily from anywhere in the world. With Map Mission Planner, set waypoints and actions with a cursor using a map view of the location. With Live Mission Planner, manually fly the docked drone, setting waypoints and actions along the way in real time to build a flight plan. A mission created in one mode can be edited in the other to maximize the accuracy and efficiency of flight plans. Missions can be scheduled to run automatically at repeated times, or they can be initiated on demand immediately. Mission Planner means that you only have to pilot your drone once per site, and then your data will be ready whenever you need it.
- Teleop – When needed, a docked drone can be manually controlled in Remote Ops. With Teleop, this can be done from anywhere in the world at any time for on-demand visibility and insights. Launch the drone from the Dock or commandeer an active Autonomous Mission from the convenience of a web browser for immediate situational awareness and real-time eyes in the sky. Fly confidently with 360-degree obstacle avoidance enabled, which can be minimized when flying through tight spaces. With the click of a button, the drone will return to the Dock on its own and land with Autonomous Return to Dock. The days of flying to a jobsite just to see it are over - now a manager can visit a dozen sites in a single afternoon, without leaving their desk.
- Live Streaming and Alerts – Gain immediate insights from live video and mission alerts, for one person or a distributed team, using Skydio Remote Ops. The information from Skydio Dock can be shared widely, even with people on the other side of the world. Live stream a video feed from the drone to share visibility with your team and collaborate in real time. Receive Mission Alerts during a flight regarding the drone, Dock, and mission status. Unlike their manual drone counterparts, pulling SD cards out and emailing photos and videos around, docked drone operators enjoy immediate collaboration and sharing to accelerate their team’s decision-making.
- Drone Operations API – Using the Skydio Cloud API, organizations can programmatically interact with their missions and flights, such as creating and updating mission templates, scheduling missions, accessing media and data, and more. Many of our customers need their drone data to integrate with existing enterprise tracking systems, and with the Drone Operations API, Skydio Dock and Remote Ops can integrate into the most critical workflows in your organization.
Skydio Dock and Remote Ops keep you as “in the loop” as you want to be, or to let you simply set up your flights, forget about the drones, and enjoy a consistent data stream.
The Skydio team is excited to continue iterating on this hardware-software technology, making it even more valuable for our earliest customers while expanding its usefulness to more industries and use cases. Through close collaboration with our early access partners and growing customer base, we are solving hard problems and delivering immense value in less and less time. Smart, connected fleets of autonomous drones are a transformative technology that open up a world of possibilities. We are just scratching the surface of what is possible with docked drones and remote operations, and look forward to continuing to build this future with you.