Professional pilot platform DroneBase is launching an augmented reality capability that will allow pilots to build while they fly. It’s called AirCraft, and has been designed for both recreational and commercial use. The new feature will give pilots the ability to overlay 3D drawings onto their first-person view. AirCraft will first launch in beta and integrate into the existing DroneBase app.
Despite the hype, finding concrete uses for Augmented and Virtual Reality has been a challenge for technology companies. Entertainment is perhaps the most obvious application, but in the drone industry, products like Google Glass and Epson Moverio have opened the door to enterprise use cases.
For most pilots, VR-like technology is familiar from FPV racing: first person goggles are as close to a simulated but real experience as you can get while flying.
DroneBase is looking to find the balance between enterprise and enthusiast with a familiar concept, just taken to new heights. That concept is sandbox building, the ability to construct structures and shapes out of thin air, most commonly found in popular games such as Minecraft. DroneBase wants its pilots to get creative, using the new AR platform and tools to build, create and share. The sky is just the canvas.
A new reason to fly?
According to drone industry analyst Colin Snow, most recreational pilots fly on average once every 2-3 months. Commercial pilots are busier, with 1-5 projects on average per month. But that’s still not a lot of drones in the sky considering the amount of hype and huge figures touted by many forward-looking industry reports.
It could be that DroneBase’s AR platform gives pilots something new to do with their quads that are gathering dust in the garage. CEO and founder Dan Burton believes that “AirCraft gives pilots of all skill levels new reasons to fly their drones.”
Speaking to DroneLife, he pointed out that inspiring today’s enthusiasts is the best way to build a generation of talented and engaged commercial pilots.
“Every pilot (including us) began as a drone hobbyist and enthusiast,” he said. “They are perhaps the biggest group and also the least engaged with their drones. AirCraft lets DroneBase reach out to drone hobbyists for the first time, but we fully expect that as AirCraft encourages pilots to fly more, many will become open to the possibility of making money from their drone and some will even consider being a full-time drone pilot their profession. We firmly believe that the next group of great drone professionals are the hobbyists and enthusiasts of today.”
It’s easy to see why. The AR platform has the potential to make flying your drone a more fun, flexible and social experience. Pilots can collaborate to design aerial masterpieces or construct a track and then race through it. The possibilities are endless. There are commercial applications, too.
“Unlike current AR experiences, AirCraft allows pilots to create and interact with virtual objects in the sky while flying. We’re looking to our community of pilots to see what they will build, how they will use this technology, and what they want next,” said Burton.
AirCraft’s commercial applications
It’s difficult to say exactly how commercial pilots might use AirCraft. It may take some experimenting to find exactly what it’s useful for, which is all part of the plan for DroneBase.
“Because DroneBase began providing professional drone services to enterprises, we already have large construction companies, energy firms, etc who are helping us develop AirCraft applications for their use cases and have signed LOI’s to confirm their willingness to pay,” said Burton.
“Since DroneBase puts pilots at the heart of our company, we firmly believe that our pilots will discover and create new and exciting use cases as well and we look forward to their feedback.”
Theoretically, because AirCraft allows pilots to create their own designs with 3D blocks that virtually stay in the sky, rendering a computer-aided design (CAD) model at a construction site or evaluating a post-disaster insurance claim are not beyond the realms of possibility. And pilots working as a team can use AirCraft to view and build upon what colleagues have created.
Then there’s the training aspect. An augmented reality platform like AirCraft gives pilots a safe place to train without having to worry about crashing into genuine structures. From oil rigs to roof inspections, pilots can practice with 3D augmented structures before giving the real thing a go.
“I’ve recently spent time testing out AirCraft, and I’ve quickly realized how fun and innovative the technology truly is,” said George Garcia, a New Jersey-based DroneBase pilot.
“Drones help us interact with the world in completely unique ways, and the features offered by AirCraft expand on this interaction in a way that I’ve never seen done before. From simply making fun objects in parks and on mountains to making additions to large structures, AirCraft is both enjoyable and practical. I am so excited to see what I can create with AirCraft in the future.”
Want to give AirCraft a go? You can sign up for the Beta in the DroneBase app, available from the Apple store. An android version is due to come out soon.