Where we came from and where we are headed

May 3, 2017

Drones already replace many technologies as well as manual work in a variety of industries ranging from inspection of industrial installation to the delivery of first aid supplies in remote areas. With the ever improving safety standards, build quality and drone regulation, this trend in only likely to accelerate and invade new industries in the following years.

The reason for their recent meteoric rise, apart from maturing technology is, bluntly put, that they allow us to do the same things cheaper. Indeed, an industrial grade drone capable of completing many of the aforementioned tasks, at times fully autonomously, costs today less than a single flight hour of a helicopter, operational costs of crane performing a single inspection, and the delivery costs of medical products in hard to reach areas. This cost reduction, combined with the remaining drone technology ecosystem gave rise to a new thriving market of drone-based services.

But is this the full shape of the drone overthrow? Or does this technology have another revolution in store? We started Drone Harmony with the belief that the true potential of drones lies in their ability to not only cut costs through cheaper alternatives, but also through their potential to almost limitlessly scale inspection, delivery etc., thus achieving incredible speed ups and enabling completely new use cases. This scaling is achievable by employing drones in numbers. We should start thinking in terms of fleets, not single drones.

How can a fleet of ten drones potentially do better than a single one? The obvious answer is that it can potentially do the same ten times as fast, but it does not end there. Ten drones can potentially allow to simultaneously monitor ten different weak spots along the fence of a security-sensitive facility. They can ensure that at least one drone is always in the air to provide continuous internet coverage at a remote location. They can even entertain us, as was recently demonstrated by Intel’s drone light show.

A screenshot from Drone Harmony’s drone coordination simulator

Clearly, a precursor to the latter scale revolution is a cheap, reliable, safe and accessible drone technology which, as we argued before, is already a reality. What remains is the need for a reliable software framework that will allow the safe and efficient deployment of drone fleets in various use cases, or in other words, the brain that can orchestrate and coordinate a fleet of drones.  The design of such a system is exactly the goal that Drone Harmony set out to achieve 3 years ago.

The Drone Harmony Flight Planner designed for scale.

In the first 1.5-2 years of its existence Drone Harmony worked towards this goal, creating the algorithmic framework for drone-fleet based inspection and surveying technology and its implementation in a simulated environment. However, the work of designing a first product based on this technology highlighted a much more primary need on the drone market: The need for a smart mission planner adapted for the workflow and basic design primitives required for drone coordination.

We have thus refocussed our attention to creating the Drone Harmony Flight Planner, the first algorithmically supported planner for DJI drones. Our goal is to provide a powerful alternative to the current mission planning applications while maintaining the flexible design, prepared for the incorporation of our drone coordination algorithms, which will be added at a later stage, after the planners release in May 2017. As such, the Drone Harmony planner is both the best app for most of today’s mission planning needs, as well as a cornerstone in Drone Harmony’s drone fleet technology.

Get to know the Drone Harmony Management Team.