Las Vegas, Nevada: “Someone needs to free the drones!” says Niv Aharoni, founder and CEO of Hod HaSharon, Israel, and Sufside, Florida-based StrixDrones. Speaking to Inside Unmanned Systems at the Commercial UAV Expo, he explained that there has been a missing piece in the drone mission lifecycle. After landing the drone, someone has to recharge it, download data and tend to other tasks, he said. “So the drone is autonomous, but it isn’t free,” he said.
The StrixDrone solution is a pair of docking stations, the Strix1600 and Strix2100, which he called “the gas station and the airport” for drones. Both products, are enclosures which open and close as the drone arrives or is ready to leave. As he demonstrated on a full-sized demonstration model, when the drone lands on the Strix 1600, a unique metal cross-hatch system holds it steady as the doors close. This landing pad was developed by Strix in-house R&D, enables any drone from any manufacturer, including eVTOL, to land without special adjustments. Inside, the drone is recharged and data is downloaded and then sent over the internet to where it needs to go, while the drone is shielded from the elements and functions without human intervention.
System Works with Any Drones
While docking station technology is not unknown in the drone universe, such stations are usually part of proprietary systems with specific functions. The Strix1600 and Strix2100, Aharoni explained, are unique in their ability to work with any drone, as well as drones operating a variety of missions including inspections, security, first response, mining, delivery and more. The Strix1600 can handle up to a 1.6-meter drone, he said. The larger Strix2100 includes a unique rotating disc that can move eVTOL drones to the correct landing position according to wind direction.
The StrixDrone company is four years old, Aharoni said. Recently, it has started manufacturing in Dayton, Ohio, and the docking stations will now be manufactured solely in the U.S. While many motors, sensors and mechanical pieces are part of the partly intelligent, partly mechanical system, the company uses off-the-shelf parts in its proprietary design and is not wedded to any particular manufacturer, he added.
Mailbox Delivery System also Universal
A second Strix product, called Dronedrop, is a smart mailbox that brings a similar universal approach to drone delivery. Maoz Klein, chief technology officer, also using a full-sized model, showed how packages can be landed or lowered into a unit with unique drawers for each customer. The customer is then alerted through an app that a package has arrived. The landing pad is equipped with a universal charging system, and, like the docking station, is drone-agnostic. “It is not a branded box,” Klein said.
You could say that, like the drones they serve, the mailbox and docking stations are free.