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Companies delivering packages or farms mapping acres and acres of fields might not want to stop at one drone. A fleet can get things done faster. But how do you keep them safe and effective while working as a group?
PixiePath, a drone software startup that launched today, thinks it has a solution: the cloud. Its software handles drone movement in real time, and it’s all browser-based so it can be accessed from any connected device. It also helps pilots monitor their drones’ battery levels, locations and tasks.
There are, of course, already ways to pilot groups of drones and monitor their vitals. But they tend to involve complex programming and the establishment of local networks. Moving data management into the cloud can also help turn around results faster because of the extra computing power that suddenly becomes available.
PixiePath is a product of serial entrepreneur Bryan Field-Elliot, who previously founded Ping Identity. Ping Identity dealt with secure access to the cloud, which is very relevant to the security-conscious drone industry.
Field-Elliot and his team will face some serious competition. Laboratories have been working with drone swarms for years, and startups like DroneDeploy and Airware are already delving into the safe management of large groups of drones.
Drones have a lot to gain from the field of swarm robotics, which allows relatively simple devices to accomplish complex tasks. For example, in a rescue situation, a swarm of drones could quickly search a very large area. If one or more go down, the rest can regroup and continue their mission without much of an impact.
PixiePath’s system would have some weaknesses in a disaster, when the cloud could easily become inaccessible. But for everyday exercises like mapping and photography it could be a welcome tool.