The stunningly sleek DX-3 “will fundamentally change the drone industry,” says Adam Sax, CEO and Founder of The Sky Guys, the Toronto-based innovators in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology.
The new drone model, unveiled last December at the International UAV Show, boasts a 1,500-kilometer range and an over-24 hour flight time. According to Sax, there are few environments in which this long-distance UAV cannot operate. Able to take off and land vertically using proprietary technology, the DX-3 is as much at home over the Sahara as it is the North Pole.
The DX-3 was created by Defiant Labs, the R&D lab wholly-owned by The Sky Guys. Defiant Labs claims that the DX-3 is a game changer, and not just due to its hardware specs. Far more than an unmanned aerial vehicle, the DX-3 is a flying SaaS platform with artificial intelligence that continuously learns in real time as it collects data, analyzes it in the air, and transmits it back to its center of operations.
The machine-learning is “where the real juice is,” according to Sax.
The Sky Guys opened their doors two years ago to provide drone services, but the company quickly outgrew this model of supplying clients with UAV hardware using third-party software solutions.
“We obtained some large contracts from globally-sized companies that had initiatives, but the tech just wasn’t there yet,” says Sax. “So that was our motivation in terms of starting to fund our internal R&D development lab, which is now Defiant Labs.”
In 2016, Defiant Labs entered into a partnership with NVIDIA to advance AI by integrating the latter’s chipsets into UAVs. They’ve also partnered with IBM to integrate Watson into the DX-3 platform, working with the Watson team’s video recognition and analytics group. According to Sax, their combined work on data management and facial recognition will provide solutions for highway protection, territory monitoring, border security, and even parking enforcement, using the DX-3’s ability to scan license plates and issue tickets from the air.
While these use cases and others, such as commercial video shooting, are well within The Sky Guys’ wheelhouse, Sax says the company will be primarily targeting heavy industry with their service. The DX-3 is particularly suited for pipeline monitoring by oil and gas companies, power and utility mapping in the energy sector, and infrastructure inspection for large scale manufacturing.
Sax says the AI software in the DX-3 is actually UAV-agnostic.
“[The software] is not industry specific,” he said. “We are designing it in a way so that any commercial drone operator or any commercial drone aircraft can utilize the ability for AI and machine learning on its collection use.”
The Sky Guys has its sights set on the United States, a market with UAV regulations less restrictive than Canada’s. While details of their market entry strategy are still under wraps, it will involve a geographically distributed squad of certified drone operators who will be able to respond to client requests and get on site anywhere in the country quickly.
With prices reported to start at $300,000 to $400,000, preorders of DX-3 will begin mid-2017.