Do you know what’s inside your drone? As the FAA regulation shift seems to indicate a takeoff for the commercial drone industry, it isn’t only drone manufacturers who could reap the benefit. With products that range from the chips inside to the vision sensing systems and power mechanisms, here are 5 drone component companies providing the parts for drones across the industry.
Last year, drone publications were touting Ambarella and GoPro as the top drone related companies. But a year brings a lot of changes to the market, and vendors for the most obvious drone parts – like cameras – are constantly changing and battling for position. While some of the major players in drone components are household names, other companies – providing the parts of your drone you might not think about – are businesses you may never have heard of.
- IXYS Corp. IXYS is not a drone start up -it’s been around for over 30 years. Located in Milpitas, CA and the Netherlands, IXYS describes itself as a “premier power semiconductor manufacturer.” But in simple terms, IXYS provides power controllers and power chipsets. Regardless of the power source – batteries, solar, hydrogen, or gas – you still need a power control system, and the more efficient the system is the more successful the machine. IXYS is a major provider to the drone industry.
- InvenSense Inc. Invensense is not a new company either, having been founded in 2003. They are a leading provider of MEMS (micro electrical mechanical systems) sensors – like accelerometers, gyroscopes, and compasses. That includes the sensors your drone needs for flight control, navigation, obstacle avoidance, and image stability.
- TransDigm Group. The TransDigm group has a list of companies so long that you have to scroll way down the page to see them all. But they are all centered around one thing – they manufacture hardware components for aircraft. TransDigm provides a huge variety of parts for all varieties of aircraft: from things as large and mundane as bathrooms for passenger jets to the batteries, chargers, and connectors used for drones. With their existing relationships, TransDigm has been a player in the military drone market for a long time – which leads them right into the burgeoning commercial drone industry.
- NVIDIA. NVIDIA is a name that followers of the drone industry have heard before – but their steady growth – and partnership with the largest drone manufacturer in the world, DJI – make them important to mention. NVIDIA’s Tegra processor is the genie inside DJI’s “Manifold” embedded computer, DJI’s development platform. According to DJI, Manifold “can be deployed for use in artificial intelligence applications such as computer vision and deep learning… This means your aerial platforms will not only be able to sense the surrounding environment, but also identify objects and respond in an instant.” While in stiff competition with Qualcomm and Intel, NVIDIA is holding its own in the drone arena.
- MicroPilot. Unlike the other 4 companies on our list, Canadian MicroPilot specializes in drones; and they’ve been doing it for over 20 years. They make ultra lightweight, customizable autopilot packages, including hardware and software. “MicroPilot serves small UAV manufacturers, large-scale defense and research enterprises, and all that exists between,” says their website. They’ve provided autopilot technology to over 850 clients, including NASA, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.