Aptonomy Inc. has developed drone technology that could make prison breaks, robberies or malicious intrusions of any kind impossible for mere mortals.
Dubbing it a kind of “flying security guard,” the company has built its systems on top of a drone often used by movie-makers, the DJI S-1000+, a camera-carrying octocopter.
To that skeleton, Aptonomy adds a new flight controller, and second computer to power day- and night-vision cameras, bright lights, and loudspeakers, among other things.
And more importantly than the hardware features, Aptonomy has developed artificial intelligence and navigational systems that allow its drones to fly low and fast, avoiding obstacles in structure-dense environments, and detecting human activity or faces in the area, autonomously.
A user can open up a browser, get onto the Aptonomy interface, click on a point on a map to send out a drone to a particular location, then watch that flight in real time, or review a recording of it later.
Aptonomy’s drones can be programmed to fly wherever a motion detector transmits data suggesting unusual activity on the ground, as well.
The drones are not just self-flying. When their batteries are running low, they fly back to a charging station to power up.
Aptonomy co-founders Mihail Pivtoraiko and Siddharth Sanan are well-known in the industry already. Both attained doctorates from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University prior to starting Aptonomy.
Pivtoraiko previously worked at NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed Martin and Intel. And Sanan’s soft robotics and human-robot safety research was the inspiration behind the robot Baymax in Disney’s Big Hero 6.
The duo are part of the current Y Combinator batch of startups, and have raised some seed funding through the accelerator.
Meanwhile, prosumer camera drones that fly lower don’t have the motion controls and perception required to navigate safely, and without a human pilot, around complex environments like a nuclear power plant, cell towers or a supermax prison.