Autonomy is a puzzle everyone is trying to solve in the drone industry right now, and Exyn Technologies believes it has developed a piece of artificial intelligence as the answer. The company formed in 2014, but has only recently gave the industry a sneak peek of what it has been working on.
“There has been a lot of attention on the consumer drone space, and a lot of great innovation in developing vehicles that are easier to use in that market,” said Nader Elm, CEO of Exyn Technologies. “What we saw was an opportunity to leverage the technology, provide value to the commercial space, and effectively take a vehicle and add various elements of intelligence onboard the aircraft.”
The Exyn AI software is designed to give drone platforms autonomous flight without relying on human control or GPS. The software features autonomous navigation, multi-spectral perception, swarm intelligence, onboard intelligence, real-time situational awareness, and mapping for obstacle avoidance.
In the consumer world, Elm explains drones offer some level of autonomy, but are still highly dependent on GPS and vision, meaning you need to have ideal lighting conditions in order for it to successfully fly on its own. In the commercial world, autonomous drones need to be highly robust in order to help pilots focus on the mission, fly in dark, light, structured or unstructured environments, and have a higher level of sophistication in terms of how they approach their environments and plan a path.
Primarily, the company will work on assisting the pilots rather than removing them from the mission. “The FAA currently will not allow fully autonomous flight yet, and I think a lot of people in the commercial world feel uncomfortable about having no pilot in the loop,” said Elm. “The first focus for us is what we can do to relieve the pilot, and have them focus on higher-level mission commands rather than actually flying the vehicle.”
While other industries are looking at autonomy in the outdoors such as drone delivery, Exyn is currently working on autonomous flight indoors. In a video demonstrating its software, Exyn shows a drone flying in a cluttered environment with no information on how to navigate its way around. The drone is able to avoid objects and adapt to its surroundings.
“We are focusing on the indoor use cases, not because it is limited to indoors, but because that is where we think the most interesting problems are right now,” said Elm. Indoor use cases include: indoor inspection, warehouse operations, underground mining, and construction.
According to Elm, there are still a number of things the company needs to work on before it is ready to open the platform to the public. The company is focusing on specific use cases and developing the full stack. Going forward, it will have to evaluate the technology, its software, the algorithms, the sensor payload, aircrafts, the application that sits on the vehicle and the environments the software will be used in.
“One of the things we are most excited about is as we bring aerial robotics out, there is a whole bunch of use cases and applications that people haven’t thought of yet, but can only be enabled by the underlying platform itself,” said Elm. “That is going to be one of the key things we will have to keep an eye on to make sure we are in the right place with the right technology.”