In addition to shotguns, regulations and laser defense systems, limited battery life is an obstacle that drone companies need to contend with in driving widespread adoption. Berlin-based startup SkySense is looking to play a part, developing a landing pad that doubles as a wireless charging station and promises yet another layer of automation.
Drones are being deployed in industries ranging from conservation to agriculture, to energy and emergency services. These applications all involve some degree of automation, whether it be following a pre-determined flight path or homing in on a mobile phone signal. But the team at SkySense wants to eliminate the need to pull a vehicle off the job when it runs out of juice.
The SkySense Charging Pad is a gold-plated dock with a 100-240 V power input and a 10 A charge rate. Using the pad to recharge a drone is as simple as landing on it, the company claiming compatibility with "nearly all existing multicopters and VTOL aircrafts," with the DJI Phantom and Parrot's AR Drone just two of the names mentioned.
Built for both indoor and outdoor use, SkySense imagines the weatherproof pad acting as a remote-controlled charging station in a variety of drone applications, from farming to surveillance. It has produced three sizes to accommodate drones of different types: a compact version measuring 17 in (43.2 cm) across, a medium version at 34 in (86 cm) and a wider model at 68 in (172 cm).
SkySense has also developed an add-on it calls Droneport, which functions as a hangar to better protect the drone while it charges. This will also enable synching of collected data to the cloud and offer connectivity with other drones in the network.
The team has established agreements with companies such as Aibotix Italia and drone management platform DroneDeploy, with a view to facilitating entirely autonomous commercial drones. The SkySense charging pads are available for pre-order now, with the compact version priced at US$649, the medium at $1,425 and wide at $4,365. Delivery is slated for January 2015.