While the U.S. government formulates a policy for civilian drone operations, CyPhy Works Inc. is going global with its aerial drones. CyPhy Works plans to open an office in Japan next year. The country could be the world’s largest market for commercial drones, said Kristen Helsel, vice president of commercial systems.
Danvers, Mass.-based CyPhy recently demonstrated its Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) tethered aerial drone for government, business, and emergency management representatives in Yokosuka, Japan.
Because of its thin tether, the PARC system can communicate more securely and can fly up to 500 feet high for 100 hours at a time, unlike most aerial drones. This could also be useful for wireless CyPhy’s smaller Pocket Flyer is intended for indoors reconnaissance.
“We have a strategic relationship with Motorola Public Safety,” Helen Greiner, CEO of CyPhy Works, told TechCrunch. “We’re hoping to leverage that to get drones to all the police officers, firefighters, and SWAT teams, not just in [the U.S.], but in the whole world.”
In September, In-Q-Tel Inc. signed a development agreement with CyPhy Works. The Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit invests in technology for the U.S. intelligence community.
“The demand for mobile, persistent, and reliable reconnaissance and communications capabilities continues to rapidly rise,” said Matt England, vice president of government systems at CyPhy. “The small logistical footprint makes these robots an ideal platform.”
The global military drone market could grow from $3 billion in 2014 to $11 billion by 2021, and the law enforcement and first responder market could grow from $764 million last year to $4.3 billion in 2021, according to WinterGreen Research Inc. China has emerged as a major competitor to the U.S. as a UAV supplier.
The FAA clears CyPhy for takeoff
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration granted CyPhy Works a Section 333 exemption, allowing the Danvers, Mass.-based startup to fly its drones in the U.S.
“I’m very pleased that the FAA has entrusted CyPhy Works with a Section 333 exemption,” said Greiner. “We’re excited to be part of this select group of early innovators that are building safe, secure, and successful commercial drone operations.”
Greiner said she expects drone deliveries to eventually occur, once the FAA allows more experimentation. “By 2020, you will be seeing drone delivery,” she said.
CyPhy Works recently received $22 million in funding from investors including United Parcel Service Inc., and it is working on a drone that could deliver payloads weighing five pounds up to five miles. Amazon Inc. and other retailers are also actively pursuing drone deliveries.
CyPhy sets its sights on consumer market
In addition, CyPhy Works recently raised $882,478 from 1,514 backers through a successful Kickstarter campaign for a prototype consumer drone. The original goal of the crowdfunding campaign was $250,000. The LVL 1 drone flies level because of software rather than requiring a mechanical gimbal to compensate for the unmanned aerial vehicle’s tilt. The UAV will also be designed to be portable and be controlled via a smartphone.
More on CyPhy Works and UAVs:
- Webcast: The FAA’s Impact on Drones
- Robotics Startups Need Space to Grow, Says MassRobotics Chief
- Robotics Investments Soar in the First Half of 2015
- The Essential Interview: Helen Greiner, CEO of CyPhy Works
- Rival Drone Companies Race to Fund Startups
- It’s All in the Tether, as Motorola Invests in CyPhy Works
The LVL 1 will include geofencing technology, which will allow users to set boundaries for flight. CyPhy is also working with AirMap Inc.’s technology. Santa Monica, Calif.-based AirMap provides airspace data to help major consumer drone makers such as DJI and 3D Robotics Inc. comply with FAA restrictions. The LVL 1 will cost about $500 and is expected to be available in February 2016.