drones

A Q&A with Skydio, Part One

Drones are “cutting-edge aerospace products disguised as consumer electronics”
article cover

Skydio

· 3 min read

Stay up to date on emerging tech

Drones, automation, AI, and more. The technologies that will shape the future of business, all in one newsletter.

We just published our guide to drones. It offers an in-depth snapshot of the history, technology, and key players in the drone space, but it can’t provide continuous updates like a newsletter.

Never fear, this newsletter is here. Emerging Tech Brew sat down with a few drone industry leaders, since we’re always eager to hear more about tech, regulation, suppliers, and market developments happening right now. We’ll be releasing these convos over the next couple of weeks.

Up first: Skydio

The Redwood City, CA, startup makes and sells autonomous drones. Skydio started out in the consumer game, but has since leaned aggressively into the enterprise and government verticals, including numerous police departments across the US.

“There's a sort of gray transition period from consumer up to enterprise where a lot of commercial drone programs start from the bottoms up,” Skydio CEO Adam Bry told us. “A consumer brings their drone to work and finds interesting use cases for it.”

  • He cited DJI, “the dominant manually flown incumbent,” as an example. Their consumer products were repurposed for business applications.

Manually flown?

Skydio’s secret sauce is its autonomous software. The drones can follow and film you, while continuously sensing their surroundings and avoiding obstacles. “We now have customers out there making all kinds of insane videos that you wouldn't be able to film any other way, like riding a snowmobile alone in the woods.”

Bry says Skydio has seen “organic pull” from customers all across the board, including energy utilities, local government departments, engineering firms, and construction companies.

  • One use case: Bridge inspections. When you see what the alternative inspection tool, the snooper truck, looks like, you’ll understand how drones could be a safer and easier way for transportation departments to carry out their business.
  • Another one: Skydio and Eagleview, an aerial imaging and data analytics company, will use 5,000 drones for automated roof inspections.

Geopolitics

DJI dominates the consumer and commercial drone markets. The US government and national-security establishment is increasingly skeptical of the Chinese drone maker.

“People have realized that these light, small drones that seemed like toys are incredibly powerful tools,” Bry says. “In a lot of places, I think there’s concern about being dependent on Chinese products made by a company that’s beholden to China’s IT policy.”

  • By that, he means a 2017 law that requires companies to hand over data to officials.

Washington’s pressure campaign to ground DJI drones and its efforts to develop a domestic supply chain have certainly been tailwinds for Skydio.

Stay up to date on emerging tech

Drones, automation, AI, and more. The technologies that will shape the future of business, all in one newsletter.