Skydio: The Age of AI-Driven, True Autonomous Drones

Overview Drones have proven to be valuable in saving lives, increasing efficiency and decreasing costs. But as adopters explore new use cases for drones, new challenges have arisen. Explore how truly autonomous, artificial-intelligence drones offer tech-savvy solutions to those very problems.

Drones have long since graduated from being remote-controlled toys and made their foray into being a business partner for various industries. From helping frontline health care workers deliver lifesaving medicine to underserved communities, easily maneuvering around obstacles for imaging needs in construction or firefighting, drones have become scaled and invaluable tools.

But as more adopters explore the possibilities that drones provide, they have also run into challenges. Constant risk of crashes when operating drones manually and spiking costs associated with pilot training to minimize the aforementioned risk are among the top reasons  preventing drones from reaching their full potential.

Autonomous drone technologies company Skydio, a CES® 2021 exhibitor and Innovation Awards Best of Innovation winner, introduces the ways artificial intelligence (AI)-driven autonomy changes the game to solve all these problems.


True Autonomy is AI-Based

Many drones contain some form of flight automation, from tracking to waypoint missions and grid flights, but these patterns fundamentally rely on the drone having a clear path, which is why operators will compromise on data quality by flying far from obstacles — and their objectives — to guarantee the safety of the drone.

But true autonomous flight powered by AI as delivered by Skydio affords drones the ability to see their surroundings using six 200° fisheye cameras, understand the world around them using nine deep neural networks, predict how objects persist in space using an Nvidia TX2 processor capable of 1.3 trillion operations a second, and finally act upon all this information to enable the simplest and safest flight experience.

Skydio calls the engine inside their drones Skydio Autonomy, and to further understand what it’s capable of, let’s look at how the following six major capabilities expand the boundaries of what drones can do.

Real-time 3D mapping: Drones often dodge an obstacle just to run into another close by obstacle. An up-to-the-second 3D map of a Skydio drone’s surroundings allow the drone to be more than just reactive, giving it a greater understanding of how to maneuver through areas.

Object recognition: AI algorithms allow Skydio drones to draw conclusions about what they see and more effectively avoid even objects unseen to the human pilot. For example, the drone can conclude that a thin cable is likely to extend in both directions and should be avoided.

360-degree obstacle avoidance: Without omnidirectional cameras, drones are prone to crash into obstacles in their blind spots. Six navigational cameras on Skydio drones empower the AI system to have full coverage data of surroundings to remain agile and safe even without a pilot.

Motion prediction: Motion prediction allows Skydio drones to plot intelligent paths around obstacles, effectively enabling pilots to tell the drone simply where to go while the drone itself handles the necessary twists and nuances.

Advanced AI pilot assistance: Trying to fly a drone safely and avoid obstacles often prevents drone users from enjoying the videos captured in flight. With pilot assistance powered by AI, the drone software does all the heavy lifting and the pilot is able to capture angles and up-close videos without worrying about crashing.

Workflow automation: Pilots are often hesitant to bring drones close to their subjects, and as a result, lose out on capturing the necessary videos. Autonomous workflows in Skydio drones enable the drones to assess its surroundings and capture more detailed data more efficiently and safely.


Delivering on Aerial Solutions When It Matters

The autonomy provided through AI allows Skydio drones to be reliable partners in high-stress, delicate situations. In public safety, truly autonomous drones decrease the staffing needs for expert drone pilots and can more closely capture vital images. The drones aim to augment and support the work of firefighters, police officers and other first responders instead of splitting their focus.

Bridge inspections and industrial construction companies have also turned to Skydio for operations. The omnidirectional imaging capabilities and precision mode for dense obstacle navigations keep both crews and drones safe while accomplishing tasks that require agility.

The Skydio team highlights that AI-driven autonomous drones prevent “white-knuckle flying.”
“Just efficient, safe flight,” the team said, achieving unprecedented use cases across industries.


Hear more from Skydio co-founder and CEO Adam Bry on the CES Tech Talk Podcast.

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