At Adeptia, we like to solve thorny integration problems for our customers. In fact, the more complex the integration project, the better we shine! We thought we'd devote some time to looking at how people are solving other thorny or complex challenges...and so we're kickstarting a new series examining the novel ways people or companies have found to get across the finish line. Next up — a look at how some innovative engineers have developed two new innovative drones, a standalone version, and a version that is powered by a smartphone.
An episode of the hit reality television show, Shark Tank, that aired in October 2015 featured xCraft, an American drone manufacturer that has developed a drone that can hover like a helicopter and fly like a plane.
Conventional, multi-rotor drones excel at hovering but lack the speed needed to capture fast moving subject matter. The company’s flagship X PlusOne solves that problem by combining precision landing and hovering capabilities into one flying machine. The XPlusOne could revolutionize aerial photography and filmmaking by making it easier to capture video or still footage from either a stationary position or on-the-go.
In addition to it's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), xCraft is developing what it calls a “Phone Drone.” This is an innovative drone “terminal.” You pop your cell phone into the main slot and it serves as the brains for your flying machine. That promises to make very inexpensive drone “shells” accessible to everyone.
The xCraft team catapulted into the American spotlight after all five of the investors on Shark Tank partnered on a $1.5 million investment in the Sandpoint, Idaho, company.
“We are thrilled to be working on what we believe will be the predominant platform design for future UAV’s that need both precision landing and hovering capabilities and efficient long-range flight,” say xCraft founders JD Claridge and Charles Manning on their website. “Our unique, patent-pending designs, coupled with our development integrations, have led to an amazing outcome of engineering and innovation.”
The X PlusOne is a high-end prosumer drone that combines multi-rotor and fixed-wing functionality. It can fly at an astounding 60 miles per hour, pitch by more than 90 degrees, and climb up to 10,000 feet. The base model of the X PlusOne includes a 2.4 GHz transmitter, battery, charger, and 3D Robotics Pixhawk autopilot functionality. It sells for $2,199 on the company’s website.
The xCraft team has partnered with 3D Robotics, another drone manufacturer, to offer the autonomous option that enables the X PlusOne to fly on autopilot. The so-called Pixhawk autopilot system is fully integrated into the X PlusOne Platinum to facilitate operation through xCraft’s Mission Planner software. The onboard program facilitates mission planning, such as using Google maps to set-up an entire flight, from take-off to landing, all on auto-pilot.
Mission Planner also facilitates shooting photos and live streaming video by enabling the drone to fly to an exact GPS location and then hold its altitude and position. If the battery gets low or the radio signal is lost, the X PlusOne is programmed to automatically return to where it was launched and land on its own.
Meanwhile, the Phone Drone promises to give every smartphone owner the option to fly. The drone “shell” is designed to leverage a smartphone’s sensor, processor, and wireless capabilities.
The Phone Drone will support the iOS and Android platforms and will pair to other mobile devices for control and video streaming. The phone itself will be protected while in flight, cradled in a protective neoprene sheath to help absorb shock.
The consumer market is just one slice of the fast-growing commercial drone segment that Radiant Insights predicts will grow from $609 million in 2014 to more than $4.8 billion by 2020. Moreover, some of the world’s biggest firms are getting into the game, including GE, Boeing and Google.
“Commercial Drones markets promise to grow significantly because of the more economical visualization and navigation provided by systems,” according to Radiant Insights. “Visualization includes mapping from the air, inspection from the air, surveillance from the air, and package delivery from the air. The unmanned aircraft equipped with cameras are able to do things that cannot be done in any other way. This bodes well for market development.”
The only thing standing in the way of supercharged growth are plans by the Federal Aviation Authority to regulate all commercial drones flown in the U.S. In the meantime, get ready for everything from drone-filmed virtual real estate tours to aerial pics from your BFF’s latest vacation adventure.
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