Watts Innovations on the Power of Open Ecosystems

Jan 4, 2023

We interviewed Bobby Watts, CEO of Watts Innovations, about their new PRISM Sky and their partnership with Auterion. Bobby explained the power of standardization and how it streamlined their interoperability with other ecosystem partners like Gremsy and Drone Rescue Systems.

PRISM Sky

In 2021, Watts Innovations decided to use the Auterion Software Stack and integrate it into their latest drone, PRISM Sky. It was exciting to see them reveal the final product this year. 

“Now that we’ve been working more with Auterion and your engineers, we realized—Wow, this is powerful.”

Bobby Watts, Watts Innovations

PRISM Sky is a 55 lbs, NDAA-compliant aircraft. The Watts Innovations team made it a platform for multiple uses like LiDAR scanning, package delivery, mapping, surveying, and more. They also recently announced their new line of smart batteries called WATTS and their delivery winch called REEL: Intelligent Delivery Winch.”

Bobby said:

“These are things we dreamed about a year ago, right? And when we were talking last year, our team was becoming more familiar with the Auterion product but now that we’ve been working more with Auterion and your engineers, we realized, wow this is powerful. So it’s been cool.” 

Open Ecosystem and Watts Innovations

The REEL winch plugs into the drone with one connector and the entire software side of it runs on Auterion’s Skynode. So when the winch needs an update it can all be done over the air through the Auterion Suite. Watts Innovations also created a whole control panel for REEL so users can adjust the delivery speed and so on.

Bobby said:

“The WATTS batteries and the REEL delivery winch are both heavily part of the Auterion ecosystem. To where we’re heavily relying upon the standards that Auterion is helping to create in the open source community. And then, we’re running those into Skynode and are able to control it there.”

Auterion Enables Innovation

Bobby said:

“What Auterion offers in its ecosystem allows us on the engineering side to just play. It’s like: ‘Oh, we can do this now! Let’s add this feature in.’” 

Now that PRISM Sky interfaces entirely to Auterion Mission Control, ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) became standard and over-the-air updates were rolled out, the result is a better product for the users. PRISM Sky received a lot more pre-orders than expected, which as Bobby put it, is a good problem. It allowed them to level up the engineering and set up a higher-scale production.

Since the interview, Watts Innovations has been focusing on production. Their team has grown and they’re always looking for more engineers to help build their products.

Trends and Open Standards

The last thing to be discussed was current industry trends. And one of them stood out more than the others.

Bobby said:

“I am seeing a lot of people beginning to play in the ecosystem Auterion is helping to create. And it’s really been quite incredible. Auterion is the central interface and it just works—and this is what we talked about last time, and it’s so cool because it happened.”

One of the payloads displayed on the PRISM Sky during the interview was the Gremsy gimbal. For this to work, manufacturers like Watts Innovations interfaces with Auterion’s standards and then the gimbal manufacturers interfaces with Auterion to the gimbal standards. In the end, when the Gremsy gimbal is plugged into the PRISM Sky it simply works. The same goes for the Drone Rescue Systems GmbH VR25 parachute.

Bobby said:

“What I’m really hoping to see is more people in the industry with these hardware and software open source standards that Auterion are helping to create.”

Watts Innovations is all in on the open standards. They built the REEL winch to the same open standards, which means they could easily be upstreamed with the winch control panel in an upcoming PX4 release. And for their WATTS smart battery, they reutilized UAVCAN.

The industry shift to open standards is picking up speed. Various providers are coming in with Auterion acting as the central hub that interfaces with the manufacturer, from the battery to the camera. When everyone meets in the middle through Auterion it all works smoothly—and the PRISM Sky proves it.

Watch the Full Interview

Watch the full interview for more details.

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