Aerobotic Innovations, a drone control and safety application, announced recently that it has partnered with Packet Digital LLC to offer new products that will combine their respective state-of-the-art software and hardware technologies. The partnership will operate under Aerobotic Innovations’ existing Botlink brand name. According to Aerobatic Innovations CEO Shawn Muehler, “We are taking two amazing technologies—software and hardware—and combining them in a way that no one else in the entire world has done quite yet.”
In 2014, a team of military and professional pilots, software developers, electrical engineers, and communicators created Botlink. The company set out to create the world’s safest and most secure drone operations platform. “We put safety at the top of the list because without safety you cannot realistically fly a drone without the threat of harming someone else,” says Muehler. Including his time as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, Muehler has been flying both manned and unmanned aircraft for over a decade. Noticing a lack of safety solutions for UAV users, pilots, and airports, Muehler saw the need for a service with an emphasis on safety.
The company currently offers a software platform that provides farmers and other drone users with a complete picture of the airspace around them. “Let’s say you are looking at a map of your fields, and you know that there is a particular field with wind towers. Using your smart phone or tablet device, you can draw a circle around the wind tower and the drone will not fly into it.” Known as geofencing, this tool allows farmers to fly with ease and alleviates the frustrations associated with navigating around objects manually.
“Farmers usually don’t have aviation experience. With Botlink, they can immediately know who is around him, where the tree lines are, and where property lines are located,” explained Muehler. “Essentially, we took the high level knowledge of a pilot and made it easy to digest for the farmer.”
In addition to genofencing, Botlink platforms offer a variety of real-world safety features, including real-time, or near real-time, manned and unmanned aircraft overlays with aircraft avoidance alerts and traffic advisories. The application also features complete regulatory compliance and includes temporary flight restrictions, active military operations, and restricted airspace areas. Additionally, the company’s cloud-based platform features fully automated drone control with manual drag-and-drop hand flying that can be performed right from a smart phone or tablet.
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As a standalone product, Botlink’s software application offers many advantages to farmers possessing even a novice experience with drones and aviation. Combined with Packet Digital’s cutting edge technologies, however, Muehler sees the partnership as poised to gain momentum in the agtech industry.
Packet Digital CEO Terri Zimmerman agrees: “Bringing Botlink’s drone control and safety software together with Packet Digital’s efficient drone hardware creates the most robust and powerful cloud based operations platform in the industry.”
Packet Digital is in the business of designing, developing, and marketing advanced power management solutions for portable electronic devices and embedded systems. The company’s patented On-Demand Power technology and PowerSage integrated circuits lead to extended battery life in portable electronic devices and help consumer electronic companies and military outfits to develop faster, smarter, and smaller products. Many of Packet Digital’s products have found their way into military equipment.
“Current market averages for drones are about 45 minutes to one hour and fifteen minutes for flight time. So, realistically you can only get about 500-600 acres done in one shot before having to land the drone and download the files,” said Muehler. After partnering with Packet Digital, Botlink is on track to increase flight times significantly. “What we are doing with the new platform is increasing electronic efficiencies by four times.”
Not only will Botlink drones fly longer, they will also offer real-time data distribution and real-time photo stitching. While some may see this service as a better fit for large-scale operations, Muehler recognizes a real agronomic opportunity for small-scale operations, as well. “I think everyone will want this platform because of the fact that the return on investment for the end user is so great. You can get much more data in real time back to you in a shorter timeframe.”
When it comes to small-scale farmers who often lack the labor resources of larger outfits, Muehler thinks that “beaming data back to their device or home computer in real time is the only option that makes sense.” Currently, Botlink offers its safety platform for free and Muehler plans to keep it that way. The Botlink Professional package offers farmers operating up to five drones with security services, up to 1,000 acres per month in photo stitching, cloud data storage, inter-device communication, and its complete drone aviation safety package. Botlink Enterprise, geared toward large-scale operations, offers 5,000 acres per month in photo stitching, unlimited cloud data storage, and a host of other features including the safety package.
Zimmerman will serve as Botlink’s CEO, while Muehler will take on the roll of COO. According to Muehler, “The newly formed Botlink, LLC, enables us to accelerate our time to market by leveraging the experience and expertise of both companies. Terri’s business experience and her team’s hardware knowledge are the perfect compliments to our strong aviation and software background.”
The joint venture has also set its sights on raising $15 million to launch its cloud-based operations platform for drones. When asked about the current progress toward achieving this goal, Muehler said, “it’s a pretty safe bet so far.”
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