Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have found plenty of use in industrial applications, buzzing around to inspect crops, buildings or other structures. That's fine if they're flying around a facility or a farm, but these drones could also be useful for monitoring long-range infrastructure, like railroads or gas pipes, if they weren't limited by battery life. Now SkyX has installed its first xStation, a recharging dock that can be placed periodically along a route to extend the range of its drones almost indefinitely.
The system is designed to work with the company's SkyOne UAV, an autonomous hybrid aircraft that takes off vertically before leveling out into fixed-wing flight. Currently, the SkyOne has a range of about 100 km (62 miles), but in a long-range application like inspecting pipes, it might be effectively only making use of half that distance, before it has to turn around and go home to recharge.
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To wring the most out of the SkyOne, the xStation can be installed at specific points along a well-traveled route, to top up the drone as required. When the SkyOne begins to run out of juice, an algorithm helps it find the nearest recharge station. Once there, it touches down onto the platform to charge, while the xStation's clamshell-style roof closes around it to protect the drone from the elements. When it's ready to go again, the drone will perform a complete systems check before continuing on its way.
By dotting xStations all along a route as required, SkyX's system could essentially increase the range of its SkyOne UAVs as far as it needs to go. With this test successful, the company is planning to install the first xStations for clients in July.
SkyX demonstrates the xStation in the video below.