For years, UAV operators have deployed a single drone to perform a dedicated mission in a specific niche – for example, retail delivery or infrastructure inspection – usually on behalf of a single client in a geographically limited area and within the drone operator’s visual line of sight.
Until now, a combination of regulatory and technological and safety concerns have tended to mandate these flight restrictions, even though they leave drone fliers without the scalability needed to reduce their costs and achieve a significant rate of return.
But times are changing.
Increasingly, UAV companies are looking to expand the number and scope of their drone operations to serve multiple clients in a more diverse array of niches. This expansion requires a shift from a single drone model to a drone-fleet model, with a single remote pilot managing multiple drones from a central command center, operating with beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) authority and coordinating drone operations over longer distances.
The shift also requires the development of networks of drone stations – “vertiports” – where drones can land, recharge and complete new missions without having to return to their original launching point. The drone fleet model is costly on the front end, but with vastly expanded operations, there’s a much higher long-term return.
For those that can afford it, and are willing to take the risk, it’s an investment well worth making.
Israel-based Airobotics is a recognized pioneer in the development of these new more scalable drone-fleet operations that offer important economic and operational efficiency benefits to UAV companies and their consumers alike. The nine-year old company is the first in the world to receive FAA type certification for its Optimus drones, which are currently engaged in fleet operations in the law enforcement niche in partnership with four local governments in the Dubai region in the United Arab Emirates.
Last month, the company received a fresh order of $2.6 million to enlarge its fleet system to support first-responder operations across multiple jurisdictions in Dubai, with plans to expand it still further to encompass more jurisdictions as well as commercial niches beyond the public safety sphere.
“We are proud to receive an additional order for Optimus Systems from our customer in Dubai,” said Meir Kliner, Airobotics’ CEO and President of the Ondas Autonomous Systems business unit. “We are working to grow our Optimus deployments in Dubai and fulfill the vision of a fully automated urban drone infrastructure for Public Safety and Emergency Response,” he added.
The launch of the Optimus system in Dubai makes sense because the government is already on the cutting edge of “green” technology design worldwide. Dubai has announced ambitious plans to transform the entire country into a “smart” hub based on a mix of sustainable battery-powered air and road vehicles, in addition to “green” building construction and solar and wind power. The country also views itself as a major drone provider for the entire Middle East and Near East region, which includes the Balkans, Turkey and parts of the Mediterranean.
In addition to aiding in search-and-rescue and other traditional law enforcement operations, Airobotics also plans to assist the Dubai police with state-of-the-art counter-drone security operations. Airobotics’s “Iron Drone” technology system allows users to identify and intercept hostile drone systems in order to protect valuable government and industrial assets from unwarranted attacks and surveillance intrusions. Iron Drone can eliminate small UAVs without recourse to GPS or radio-frequency jamming. Intercepting drones fly autonomously towards identified invaders based on initial radar guidance and then “lock on” to them using advanced machine vision.
Airobotics’s reputation for innovative drone solutions was forged back in 2018 when the company began servicing mining, construction and public infrastructure companies with its cutting-edge inspection technology. The company has grown its team to over 250 employees and has expanded the number of countries where it works to the United States, New Caledonia, Chile and Singapore. Senior Google and Facebook Executive Richard Wooldridge joined Airobotics in 2018 which allowed the company to raise its visibility and to vastly expand its investment support.
In June 2022, American Robotics, a subsidiary of Ondas Holdings, acquired Airobotics, which set the stage for the company’s application to the FAA for type certification of its Optimus drone system.