Skydio A California-based company founded by Google and MIT veterans is ready to unleash the new breed of AI drones freedom capable of robust surveillance and monitoring in the neighborhood.
A few years back, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) put up an order for advanced drones that don’t require any human intervention and have the capabilities to self-launch and perform vigilance and surveillance on ground targets. The order was placed since the department thinks it’s necessary to integrate technology to monitor and surveil long land borders of the United States and that border petrol by humans is too cumbersome and ineffective. Now, to support the research and development of such drones, Custom and Border Petrol shell out USD 500,000 to Mitre Corp. The company is a reliable nonprofit Skunk Works and has already been producing tech gadgets for the border police including rapid DNA testing kti, as well as, smartwatch hacking tools.
However, Mitre Corp. efforts in producing drones with the desired features didn’t take off. While the company did produce some prototypes, the drones weren’t fielded operationally due to a much wider gap between the simulations to reality.
However, this didn’t hold back Custom and Border Protection (CBP) to continue looking outwards for the right solution, as the following year CBP tested the automated ai drones freedom from Skydio – a Redwood City, California-based startup. According to officials from Skydio, the startup was able to raise a total of USD 340 million in venture funding at a valuation of USD 1 billion.
Skydio was formed back in 2014 by MIT veteran Adam Bry, who has also worked on the Google Wing project, and is a unmanned flight specialists with the vision to offer robust drones that go far beyond border policing. The CEO and co-founder of Skydio Adam Bry is passionate to come up with drones that don’t require any pilot. Such drones will have wide use cases from policing to goods delivery, and monitoring and inspection of public infrastructure like buildings, and towers. According to Adam Bry, the company is focused on developing technology that solves the core problems of creating reliable and autonomously flying drones. Speaking from his home in San Francisco, the CEO and co-founder of Skydio said that the current development of software and the hardware required to support Autonomous flying skills in drones is the top priority of the company, in which they are fast covering the distances.
The early versions of the drones from Skydio came with some strong AI features including the powerful AI/Machine learning-based software that can even predict the next move of the monitored target (be it a person or a car). While the company may be one of the few companies offering the most advanced AI-powered drones, the company’s real advantage stems from simply being an all-American company and not the Chinese. Skydio proudly boosts itself as the best alternative to DJI (the biggest manufacturer of drones) which is a Chinese company. According to Skydio, the company manufactures drones completely in America (although it admits to using some plastics, and metals imported from China).
This certainly gives Skydio a huge benefit against the Chinese AI drone manufacturer DJI, since the Trump Administration placed an export ban on the DJI, presumably due to its alleged support to Chinese administration in surveillance, monitoring, and suppression of Uyghurs, in the Xinjiang region, China. Also, the National Defense Authorization Act may potentially ban all federal agencies to buy Chinese manufactured drones, due to fears of backdoor surveillance and reporting to Beijing. Similar fears are being raised by local police agencies, who are concerned about possible backdoor spying channels in Chinese manufactured surveillance drones.
Making Up for the Late Arrival!
It’s important to note that Skydio was a relatively latecomer in the international arena as the manufacturer of drones. For instance, the company was only formed in 2014, whereas, the first consumer drone was launched just four years later. These early drones received rave reviews from all walks of life including influencers, film crews, and others. Soon, the idea of AI-powered drones was taken up by the government and private sectors who came after the technology.
Skydio was quick to make up for their late arrival with the launch of drones. Especially it’s worth mentioning the company’s latest AI drone, the X2, which brings in serious performance levels and addressed issues related to the previous two versions of the drones, including operational capacity in dark and during rain. However, the X2 model from Skydio is an expensive buy and the DEA paid around USD 15,000 for a single X2 drone. According to the government records, the price of an X2 AI drone can vary anywhere from USD 10,000 to USD 20,000; depending upon the accessories, and software that comes with the drone. If we are to look competitively, the similarly featured drone from DJI costs only USD 3,500 and may work better at night time (X2 autonomous flying feature doesn’t work at night). However, being American manufactured means that Skydio is playing in favored waters, whereas, DJI may find itself in turbulent waters, at least until there a radical change in American policies towards Chinese manufactured surveillance drones.
Nonetheless, Skydio is betting on its newfound freedom and is aggressively pushing its work across government agencies. The company has reportedly contracted with the military, as well as, CBP, which hasn’t gone unnoticed in the industry. Since in Silicon Valley, there’s a genuine concern amongst tech engineers regarding the idea of working with LEAs. For instance, previously Google employees have called on the company’s executives to stop working with Pentagon, and other LEAs like Immigration services. However, the CEO and co-founder of Skydio Bry isn’t shying away from working on government projects. According to Bry, Custom and Border Petrol and other LEAs perform critical functions for society on which we all depend on and it is just unfortunate that these are seen as polarizing agencies. The CEO and cofounder Bry also said that Skydio is determined to never put arms on its ai drones freedom or sell drones to repressive governments.
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