The issue of flight time is a major thorn in the drone industry’s side. Current battery technology limits the range of multicopter drones because a single charge usually only gets about 20-30 minutes of flight time before it must be replaced and charging these batteries can often take an hour or more.
The easy fix for this issue is to simply advance battery technology 25 years or so, until we have invented some sort of hyper-efficient compact energy source.
In the meantime, Philadelphia-based Asylon (pronounced Ace-eh-lon) is extending drone flight time in the field with a system that provide more batteries to more drones, autonomously.
The Asylon system is made up of several individual parts. The ground station of the system is a customized Pelican carrying case which can carry up to 16 batteries and can charge depleted batteries when hooked up to an external power source.
Additionally, the case has a mechanical arm and a landing pad for UAVs.
The system also includes a transmitter pack (200 grams) that goes onboard the drones themselves.
The transmitter pack communicates with the landing pad via GPS to bring the drone back to base. From there, Asylon CEO Damon Henry explained, “We have an optical solution that gets the drone in place. We are still waiting for the patent for this system, but it includes sensors… three cameras and an IR transmitter onboard… We get the drone in place within two inches of our target landing position.”
At that point, the mechanical arm opens the battery release and replaces the depleted battery with a fully charged one and the drone is off and flying again.
To make this process easier, Asylon actually created a new battery pad to replace the current battery port found in most drones.
“For most professional and even hobby UAV models, we still rely on velcro to strap in our batteries,” Henry laughed. “We developed an interface that’s really quick to secure and release a battery… it’s one press to lock and unlock the battery from the body. It’s so much better than velcro… we actually hope to launch this as a standalone product that can be used in big professional UAVs all the way down to racer-grade drones.”
The final component of the Asylon system is the mobile app which allows users to tell the system the make and model of the drone they are using and set up a flight grid using waypoints. The system then creates the most efficient flight plan based on drone range and battery power.
Currently, the system is compatible with DJI’s S1000 and S900 UAVs, but Asylon is working to include the Inspire 1 and Arducopters as quickly as possible.
“We wanted to start with the S1000 and S900 first because they have the hardest batteries to swap because they are so large. It will be easier to swap smaller batteries,” Henry said. “Plus they are the most common drones used by the companies on the FAA’s list of 333 exemptions outside of photography.”
That is where interest in Asylon has come from, according to Henry. Surveying, defense, and (overseas) delivery companies have all made inquiries about the Asylon system.
They shouldn’t have long to wait either; Henry says presales for the Asylon system will begin in January with a ship date in April and will carry a price tag in the $7-$10,000 range.
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Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com