How did you get into the commercial drone space?
Auterion is part of a mission that has started 10 years ago. As part of his PhD research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), our co-founder Lorenz Meier created PX4, Pixhawk, MAVLink, and QGC, the most widely adopted permissive open source projects in the drone industry.
Auterion was born to help drone service providers and drone OEMs focus on their core differentiation, save time and money when bringing new products to market, and offer them the right tools to operates drones safely. Auterion strongly supports open source development and distribution of PX4 and Pixhawk, while extending the reach of open source technologies to more closely meet enterprise-grade requirements in the commercial drone space.
What are your thoughts on its (commercial drone industry) development so far? (Whether it be technologically, legally, or use cases.)
We see many commercial companies reach their glass ceiling in R&D. It is not enough anymore to put a camera in the sky and download pictures on an SD card. Today, in any robotic system, nothing is more important than the ability to perceive, communicate, and navigate the world around it safely and in compliance with regulations. Furthermore, businesses require seamless workflows to capture, use, and integrate data into their systems. Many of these technological challenges are too large for individual companies to solve on their own.
Open source is an R&D model that has been a critical enabler in the industry so far. It created networks effects among the fragmented landscape of companies, allowed them to share the development cost and gain market access for their product and services. However, we see that more and more companies have needs that the open source projects on their own cannot satisfy
What do you envision the commercial drone space to look like a year from now? 5?
The years 2016 and 2017 were challenging for the drone industry. Some drone companies had to change business models, many others changed their leadership teams to help steer the company in new directions, and some are no longer active in the drone industry. The industry is consolidating and shifting from vertically to horizontally integrated; it’s a trend that happened in many maturing industries.
It’s becoming clear that a global standard and a common infrastructure are needed. More and more drone companies are seeing PX4 and Dronecode as a way to consolidate their efforts. It allows them to stay on the technology curve and scale market access to remain competitive. Because of this, we will see a stronger push towards ecosystems.
If you had one “wish list” item to have in/happen to the industry today, what would it be?
If we had one wish, it would be one that would benefit the entire ecosystem and would accelerate the speed of innovation for the industry. To reach the next level of adoption we need further development on the hardware and software side. Drone hardware needs more visual computing power and better sensors at lower cost. Luckily, the automotive industry is solving the same autonomy problems and will be the primary driver in reducing cost because it offers much larger scale and returns on investment than the drone industry. At the same time, we need a common software infrastructure so that both, hardware suppliers and service companies, can scale their go to market.
What does Auterion have on the horizon? What can we expect to see in the near future?
At Auterion we aim to bring the level of professionalization to drones that Red Hat brought to Linux. We are presenting the first release of our tested, certified and reliable operating system for drones on a validated hardware platform at Interdrone. We will enable safe deployment of software for all stages of the lifecycle of a commercial drone – from prototyping to large scale drone operations.
We will keep working together with the open source ecosystem and with our software and hardware partners to update our operating system and bring new technologies and services to the industry and enable the next level of safe drone operations.