Ann Arbor Startup Plans Autonomous Flying Robots


Though a production model hasn’t been built yet, Ellis said the molds are ready.

SkySpecs plans to market its robots to civil engineers first. Ellis said there are currently many situations where engineers expend large amounts of time in hazardous environments inspecting structures and equipment.

“It’s expensive, time consuming and dangerous,” he said. “We want to remove that need.”

The robot, though unable to fix anything, would autonomously fly to whatever destination an engineer sent it to and use its sensors to gather large amounts of data that the engineer could analyze later.

Ellis said this would enable engineers to analyze the integrity of bridges, large wind turbines and other structures without putting themselves in danger.

“We thought early on that there might be some resistance in the market, because we’re removing people’s jobs,” Ellis said. “But they don’t want to be hanging from those structures either.We’re not necessarily removing a job. We’re just giving them a different tool to complete their job.”

But Ellis said civil engineering is only the beginning.

“There are so many applications with the same exact platform,” he said.

For example, Ellis said snowboarders could use them to take aerial photos and video for personal or promotional use.

A more conventional application the group is considering is military reconnaissance. Ellis said SkySpecs would have a strong competitive edge in that market because their design doesn’t require user control, making it very attractive to soldiers.

“If they have to take the gun out of their hands to use a controller, then they don’t want to do it,” he said.

“So they want it to be autonomous – just click a button to deploy and let it do its thing while they can continue on their mission.”

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Posted by on Apr 1st, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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