Drones in 2020 are Software-defined

August 18, 2020

Drones in 2020 are Software defined

Drones don’t deliver packages or collect mapping data, software does. 

As the commercial and governmental drone industry transforms due to increased adoption and tackles the challenges that come with scaling, Auterion is building an ecosystem where drones are not just defined by the hardware components they are made with, but also by the software they run upon. 

The drone industry is in a state of transformation

The drone industry is in a state of transformation that is being driven by increased adoption of drone operations by businesses and governments around the world. 

Early adopters have proved that drones can be used for critical operational tasks at a much lower cost than current technologies. Within the energy industry for example, power line monitoring is now being done by fleets of drones, replacing the expensive and dangerous use of helicopters previously used to do the same task. 

Drone programs across industries are yielding similar results, providing companies with greater efficiency, higher levels of safety for their staff, with greater return on investment in contrast to traditional methods.  

The question for business has moved beyond shall I experiment with drones to – how long can I afford to not use drones within our operations before I am left behind by my competitors who are? 

This mindset shift coupled with the success of early adopters is accelerating investment into drone operations and subsequently driving the drone industry to scale. But much like in the automotive industry 100 years ago, having thousands of manufacturers building every component themselves to their unique specification doesn’t scale, leading to the consensus that standardization is critical for the drone industry’s next phase of scaling. 

Standardization is driving consolidation

At Auterion, we’ve been vocal advocates for standardization for the drone industry to achieve the scale required to meet the coming demand. 

We’ve worked in open collaboration with partners and organizations like the Dronecode Foundation to create common standards to make drone’s easier to produce, integrate, and maintain for everyone. 

Standardization is also an important factor in bringing stability to the industry. They form a secure, common roadmap that gives everyone involved, whether vendors or buyers, confidence that the technology they are using has broad adoption and is future-proofed, by protecting them against core technological changes that could lead to early obsoletion without a common set of standards in place.

While standardization is necessary to achieve scale, it will result in consolidation across the industry. We’ve seen signs of this already with many big manufacturers closing their doors in recent years, a trend we don’t expect to slow down. 

Software-defined drones enable standardization and scale

At the heart of standardization and its enablement of scale, is open source drone software. 

While drone hardware is a critical part of any drone operation, customers are experiencing the importance of the software platform that powers them and the services they are connected to. 

Much like within the smartphone ecosystem, software-defined drones provide users with hardware interoperability without affecting the software they run. In a software-defined drone system, a company running a fleet with particular software configurations can replace and upgrade their hardware while retaining the same software configuration.  

It’s also the software that drives the aircraft within your operation, to get the necessary data and use it within your existing workflows. To do that, you need an ecosystem of software products: something to plan flights, fly, and use the data as its collected. 

Auterion is leading the establishment of the software-defined drone ecosystem, all based on open-source software like PX4 autopilot, MAVLink Communications and MAVSDK, and QGround Control that is then prepackaged, QA and tested, and supported by Auterion. 

Key benefits of the Software-defined Drone

A drone that improves overtime like a Tesla

Within the software-defined drone ecosystem you can change the behavior and capability of the system with a feature update through software upgrades which can be done remotely. Since upgrades can be performed across an entire fleet you remove the need for a manual upgrade process that takes the drone out of operation.   

Update and maintain your drone like a smartphone

Coupled with ongoing software updates, your drone becomes better over time. You are able to keep the hardware but improve the capability, much like a Tesla that improves its level of self-driving capability with every subsequent software update. 

And because the platform is open source, there are hundreds of professionals working on the code – a key factor that the vast majority of drone companies can’t compete with. Just as major companies like Microsoft and Intel are the top contributors to Linux, so we are the top contributors to open source software for drones. 

Scalability of integrations beyond what you have today

Integrations are no longer one-off or bespoke to a single drone system. Any integration that is completed with one drone will also work on another one. As a single piece of integration work can be scaled across all drones within the ecosystem, the commercial barriers to completing further integrations are removed and integrations become widely available to all sized operators rather than just larger ones who would have traditionally afforded the required custom development. 

Same UX/UI makes training and operations scalable

When a drone is software-defined your operating knowledge scales across an entire fleet of systems. Once you learn to fly one drone, you’ll by default be able to fly all other drones with the same software. Your training burden is lowered, while your ability to adopt a more diverse fleet of drones increases. 

In Summary 

As we see standardization increase across the drone industry and customers benefit from a higher level of innovation and scale as a result, it’s clear that the drones that deliver your packages and collect mapping data will be open, and software-defined. 

To learn more reach out to talk to us www.auterion.com/contact