“Collaboration” is one of those marketing words that gets thrown around a lot in the drone industry. Usually it just indicates a way of sharing data – but with Kittyhawk‘s new feature set “collaboration” means secured real (and real-time) communication between operations managers and pilots.
Kittyhawk is an enterprise-focused drone operations platform, integrated with DJI hardware. At yesterday’s DJI Airworks Conference in Denver, the Kittyhawk team revealed some new capabilities that offer a new value proposition for enterprise customers – secure, real-time management and communications to get mission objectives completed in fewer flights, with better data.
The secure Kittyhawk app now provides the option to share your drone’s position on the Kittyhawk platform, in real-time. (Optionally, securely, anonymously – security is a differentiator for the company, and they take it seriously.) “Once you share your location, DroneAware picks up your drone’s signature and transmits it to our real-time traffic map, available today on the Kittyhawk app for iOS and the Kittyhawk.io web dashboard,” says the announcement. “With Kittyhawk’s DroneAware feature, you now have the ability to see your operations in real time and help deploy assets to where they’re going to be best utilized while also ensuring vigilance and compliance.”
Being able to see where your fleet is in real-time is a huge benefit to operations managers (think of an emergency response team fighting a wildfire, or performing search and rescue, and being able to see where each drone was in relation to each other). But it’s the next new feature that allows managers to close the loop and actually adjust the mission in progress, Kittyhawk’s Robert Van Gool explains:
Another new feature we are announcing is secure live streaming of video and audio. Now, any member of the team can start flying a DJI drone and securely share the video feed with anyone else on the team, straight to their mobile device, no matter where in the world they happen to be. Flight Deck’s new streaming functionality also includes a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency-like (CTAF) feature so anyone watching the stream can talk in real-time to anyone else watching or flying. Team members can now seamlessly communicate to the pilot and each other to gather and share insights — be it incident command at a fire, or subject matter experts viewing live video of machinery or infrastructure half a world away.
When managers know where their fleet is – and then can tell one of them to do something different in real-time to adjust the plan, based on the data that they’re capturing – the whole process of a drone mission becomes streamlined.
Kittyhawk’s co-founder Jonathan Hegranes says that’s the idea. “Let’s reduce steps, let’s reduce friction – audio and video are a great way to do that,” he comments. “…This is changing how an organization is thinking about drones: you can get more and more people involved.”
It isn’t only the “collaboration” that changes the value proposition here. While the ROI for using drones vs. helicopters is strong on the cost side, drones can take more time when managers have to review data and then plan subsequent missions to revisit areas of interest. That can mean that some enterprises are slow to make the change. “It’s hard to put a price on what that time is worth,” says Hegranes. “This solves that problem.”
Kittyhawk’s Robert Van Gool says that the new features can change the way that enterprises approach drone programs. “This dramatically changes how you run drone operations, it changes the workflow,” says Van Gool. “This makes it more of a collaborative, real-time environment where things happen.”
With recent announcements of the UAS Integration Pilot Program and promises of evolving regulations for the drone industry, the rate of enterprise adoption is increasing quickly – and Kittyhawk’s ready for the shift. “Once the regulation open up I think we’re going to see a lot of new industries jumping in,” says Van Gool.
“We’re enhancing our platform – and we’re very good at managing drones at scale. We have customers managing over 500 drones now. That’s what we do and we do it well.”
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.