Skydio Makes Drones Smart So Pilots Can Be Dumb With $3M From Andreessen

January 15, 2015 - photo frame

“In 5 years, a idea of a worker crashing will be a weird, unfamiliar thing” says Adam Bry, co-founder of drone auto-pilot startup Skydio and founding member of Google’s Project Wing worker smoothness project. Skydio connects a drone’s cameras to a moody mechanism so it can equivocate obstacles and scheme on a possess yet GPS.

Today Skydio announced it’s lifted a $3 million seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz and assimilated by Accel Partners to start convention tradition hardware and pierce toward removing its technology to market.

To demo a auto-pilot system, it’s built a worker “magic wand” that lets we approach a worker by simply indicating your phone where we wish it go. That means we don’t need a traditional, clunky twin joystick worker controller. Here’s a discerning demo video of Skydio’s worker sorcery wand in action:

“I grew up drifting radio tranquil airplanes” Bry, Skydio’s CEO, tells me on a balmy day out on San Francisco’s waterside Embarcadero. “I took it too severely and won a integrate of inhabitant championships in high school. Not a many renouned hobby as a teenager.”

But Bry nerding out in a skies brought a group together. It delivered him to MIT’s mechanism scholarship and synthetic comprehension where he met destiny Skydio CTO Abe Bachrach.

The startup’s CXO Matt Donahoe was some-more into film and gaming, yet recalls operative during MIT’s media lab when he became preoccupied by Bry whirling drones around outside. “I pronounced ‘putting a camera on a worker is going to be unequivocally powerful’” Donahoe tells me. “Putting cameras on tripods is a pain. we consider drones are going to be a many implausible artistic collection we’ve seen in a prolonged time.”

Skydio Selfie

Bry’s Master’s topic was a fixed-wing worker that could fly 25mph around a parsimonious parking garage (video below), and this GPS-denied moody record would turn a basement of Skydio. Him and Bachrach stayed in hold with Donahoe as he worked during gaming startups while they founded Project Wing during Google[x]. Building drones that could broach disaster service reserve primed Bry and Bachrach to strike out on their possess and form Skydio.

Ditch The Joysticks

Dual joystick worker controllers currently are like a Command Prompt interfaces for aged computers: we have to be an consultant to get any value out of them, tying their accessibility. Yet CES this year valid that drones are going mainstream. The Skydio group wanted to build a approach for anyone to fly drones, and that means holding shortcoming for maneuvering off a user and putting it on a propellered-shoulders of a drones themselves.

Most unmanned aerial vehicles need GPS to know where they are. That can lead to some waggish malfunctions, like when a bug resets a drone’s dictated plcae to 0° latitude, 0° longitude, promulgation it hurdling towards Africa. The faith on GPS seems silly, though, deliberation drones are now versed with high-grade video cameras.

So Skydio set out to forge a “drone visible cortex” that takes a feed from a cameras and runs it by their mechanism prophesy algorithms that detect chain or obstacles in 2D and translates a picture to a 3D map of a drone’s surroundings. This map and navigation instructions are afterwards upheld to a drone’s moody computer.

At a simple level, this keeps drones from crashing. They can see a circuitously tree or a ground, and know not to run into them even if a tellurian tells them to. But Bry says it’s a ability to clear new interface options that unequivocally gets him vehement about Skydio. They can reinstate a Command Prompt with a Graphic User Interface.


One instance is a sorcery wand. A second is an auto-follow module that lets a worker commander itself while gripping we in a camera frame. You could simply symbol a plcae on your phone and have a worker do a reconnoitering run, automatically formulation a track that will constraint each in. of a aim section on camera as shown in a picture above. Or we could line adult a worker camera angle by examination on your phone screen, swiping or pinching to adjust a viewpoint as a worker maneuvers to get your preferred shot.

Here’s a demo tilt of what Skydio-equipped drones can do:

Skydio is still in a antecedent phase, hacking together off-the-shelf materials. The new $3 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, and a patrol of tip angels will account a squeeze of tradition hardware for Skydio’s visible cortex, and employing mechanism prophesy geniuses. After a year, a association is still only a 3 founders.

“We’re not going to make a whole drone” says Bry. But a group does need to build some-more computational energy into drones so they can do a mechanism prophesy estimate locally rather than promulgation it somewhere else. Still, Donahoe jokes “We’re most closer physically to cloud computing.”

Eventually, Skydio expects to partner with worker manufacturers to get a record in a air. It could work with associate Andreessen-backed startup Airware, that creates a worker handling system and moody mechanism that can be automatic for blurb missions. Bry admits tip worker makers like DJI and Parrot could get some-more critical about mechanism prophesy auto-pilot. But a bigger hazard is violence scholarship to make a record work.

Skydio doesn’t have a petrify recover date for a system, yet is pulling to get program out a doorway this year. Drones are still widely criminialized from blurb use by a FAA yet new regulations could shortly give them singular airspace. Silicon Valley’s investors clearly wish to be watchful in a wings.

Donahoe concludes “Between drones and VR, a future’s really going to be sweet.”

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