Drones

You can now buy a co-ordinated multi-drone swarm in a box

You can now buy a co-ordinated...
Teal's Golden Eagle is one of very few drones that are approved by the US DoD
Teal's Golden Eagle is one of very few drones that are approved by the US DoD
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Teal's Golden Eagle is one of very few drones that are approved by the US DoD
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Teal's Golden Eagle is one of very few drones that are approved by the US DoD
A single controller will operate an intelligent swarm of drones out of the box for the first time
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A single controller will operate an intelligent swarm of drones out of the box for the first time
Up to six drones will participate in swarm activities to begin with, with two designated as low battery reserves
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Up to six drones will participate in swarm activities to begin with, with two designated as low battery reserves
Survey and photography missions will be done four times faster, and the 4-ship system will control routing for each drone as well as stitching the outputs together
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Survey and photography missions will be done four times faster, and the 4-ship system will control routing for each drone as well as stitching the outputs together
Persistent surveillance operations could hot-swap drones in the air as their batteries run out, keeping an eye in the sky at all times
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Persistent surveillance operations could hot-swap drones in the air as their batteries run out, keeping an eye in the sky at all times
The controller can handle four video streams at once, giving you 360-degree views of a target
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The controller can handle four video streams at once, giving you 360-degree views of a target
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Puerto Rico-based Red Cat Holdings has announced what it believes is the first and only commercially available multi-drone swarm system, allowing several DoD-approved drones to perform co-ordinated tasks under the control of a single pilot.

Red Cat is an umbrella company that owns several drone-related businesses. The best known is probably Fat Shark, which manufactures low-latency FPV goggles, but it also owns Teal Drones, which produces a fully American-made quadcopter drone called the Golden Eagle, which is one of only a small handful of drones approved under US Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines.

China, through DJI and a number of other fast-moving companies, well and truly caught the USA with its pants down as drone technology began to take off in the last decade, thoroughly dominating the market with cheap, reliable and beautifully put together consumer and commercial drone products.

China has owned this market so comprehensively that American institutions like the FBI and NYPD have been buying DJI drones for surveillance work, despite the Department of Defense labeling them "potential threats to national security" that could possibly feed critical data back to China if weaponized remotely in a conflict situation. Machines like the Golden Eagle aim to eliminate this threat, being fully designed and built in the US.

A single controller will operate an intelligent swarm of drones out of the box for the first time
A single controller will operate an intelligent swarm of drones out of the box for the first time

Now, Red Cat is attempting to get out in front of the next wave of commercial drone technology. “There is really almost no use case," says Teal Drones CEO George Matus in a press release, "where I think to myself, one drone is now enough. Every use case can benefit from having a swarm of drones.” ­

Drone swarms are most prominent nowadays as entertainment spectacles, each drone providing a point of light that can move in three-dimensional space to create complex shapes and dazzling effects. But Teal believes that intelligently co-ordinated swarms can do the job quicker and more effectively in a lot of use cases, so it's created a product called 4-Ship to give operators a ready-made swarm of up to six drones that can work on a task in concert, with just one pilot at the helm.

Only four drones will be active at a given time, the other two being there on standby ready to sub in for the others and maintain the swarm as battery life begins to run down. A special 4-Ship controller is capable of displaying four video feeds at once, giving 360-degree views of a target if required, and has been designed to be simple and intuitive to use.

The controller can handle four video streams at once, giving you 360-degree views of a target
The controller can handle four video streams at once, giving you 360-degree views of a target

Surround surveillance for military, government and public safety organizations will be one of the first applications for these swarms, with the ability either to surround an enemy target, or face outwards to provide 360-degree defensive views of a friendly position. The drones can easily be placed in other advantageous spots to create a kind of aerial CCTV system monitoring building exits and the like.

Alternatively, in a persistent surveillance/reconnaissance mission, a single drone can be set to track a target or location, and the 4-Ship system will rotate drones in as battery levels drop, to make sure there's always an eye in the sky.

Another easy win for a swarm system comes in automated surveying and area photography missions, in which the 4-Ship system can co-ordinate the entire task between multiple drones, automatically stitching together images from across the swarm and effectively getting these jobs done in a quarter of the time. With manpower typically being the most expensive component of many drone operations, the system could pay for itself on that basis alone.

Up to six drones will participate in swarm activities to begin with, with two designated as low battery reserves
Up to six drones will participate in swarm activities to begin with, with two designated as low battery reserves

“With 4-Ship, we have successfully integrated the human/machine interface with an embedded autonomy engine that offers additional intelligence and surveillance capabilities from a single pilot and controller,” said Steve Jacobson, CEO of autonomous software developer Autonodyne, LLC, which collaborated with Teal Drones on this project. “The ease of use and multitude of applications makes the 4-Ship a next-generation drone system.”

Teal says it's got shippable product on hand and it's opened up orders for deliveries to begin in the fall. The video below shows test footage.

TealDrones SwarmTest

Source: Teal Drones

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1 comment
1 comment
Karmudjun
Ah - "when you have to ask the price, you can't afford it". While that isn't a true statement Loz, your article does a nice job of presenting another situation where it may ring true. Oprah was looking at bags at a high end boutique and the salesperson didn't recognize one of the worlds richest women and steered her away from a very pricey bag. She lost a customer with that interaction based on perception.

Looking at a 4 drone cluster and controller would be fascinating - but what for? What good is it to me? Like Oprah, when I might get the actual price with shipping I would likely mimic Oprah and say - for those items - that is too much to pay, thank you anyway. But glad DoD technology is moving into the well heeled marketplace!