Developed by Omar Eleryan and Simon Czarnota of Cleo Robotics and first gaining attention late 2016 and again last year at CES2017, the Cleo drone prototype, is a ‘donut-shaped’ drone encased inside a duct with an emphasis on safety. We reached out to Omar to provide a little insight into this imminent new comer to the consumer drone marketplace.
Hello Omar, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you provide some background to yourself and Simon?
Hello and thank you for speaking with me. Simon and I have shared a passion for robotics and technology for as long as we can remember. I am a mechanical engineer by trade. After college, I worked at a large engineering firm for a few years. I was there until we started Cleo. Simon is a software engineer who’s been coding since he was in his early teens. Before Cleo, he worked at Cisco Systems.
Please tell us about this indoor friendly drone of yours – what makes it a world first?
Drones are becoming very capable and impressive, but for the most part, they are still impractical and intimidating due to their large size and exposed propellers. Although this is not an issue for most outdoor applications, it is a major concern when it comes to indoor flight.
For people to be comfortable with drones flying indoors, they must be small and safe. It is not currently possible to achieve this with a quadcopter design. That’s why we created Cleo, which is an entirely new type of drone that is extremely safe, and small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. Some people are calling it a dronut because of the way it looks.
What makes it truly unique is the technology behind the way it is controlled, which is a world first.
You showcased Cleo at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2017 with great interest – congratulations on receiving an Innovation Award. What made it stand out from the rest at that expo?
Receiving the award at CES was a great honour. I believe it stood out because of the novelty of the design, and the fact that people had never seen anything like it before. It’s also because it is much safer and more practical than any other drone.
What do the basic specs of the Cleo look like? E.g. flight time, speed, camera details, materials used?
It is made from composite plastic, which is robust yet allows us to keep the weight under 100g. Flight time is between 12 and 15 min, and it’ll come with a wireless charging station that it always returns to. The camera can capture 4K video at 30fps, and 13 MP still images.
You spoke at CES2017 about being able to design and order parts using 3D printing technology. What advantages and limitations does this present?
It is very exciting that we live in a time where a technology like 3D printing is easily accessible, and for such a low cost. Creating something like this even 10 years ago was something that was only possible for established companies with big budgets.
Obviously, the advantages are many, including low cost and fast turnaround times, which is critical during the prototyping stage.
Some of the disadvantages include the lack of high strength materials, and a relatively poor surface finish quality. This leads to poor tolerances and reduced efficiency, especially when dealing with aerodynamics and flight mechanics.
You’ve previously talked about your drone being a consumer product as well as having potential professional uses, can you expand on those professional uses?
The idea for Cleo originally stemmed from our desire to create a drone that could be used by anyone for taking great pictures and videos. However, there are many more applications for this technology beside personal use. Some of these include law enforcement and first response, where an officer could deploy a drone into a building to get footage of what’s happening inside, or to search for people during a fire or an emergency. Cleo could also be used for home and industrial inspections for example, making it easier and quicker to access hard to reach areas.
Does the company have investment backing or are you seeking that for expansion?
We have been funded in the past, and we’re currently in the middle of raising another funding round.
Where are you at in the production stage, and when will we able to buy one?
We are currently finalizing the autonomous capabilities of Cleo and setting up manufacturing. The target release date is December 2018 for our indoor security version.
Will there be just one Cleo or multi-variants?
Cleo’s unique design makes it ideal for use in many different applications. Our initial product will be a security drone, but our goal is to create other versions capable of performing other tasks. We are hoping to release subsequent versions in 2019.
With technology evolving so quickly is it a challenge keeping up with the hardware market?
Keeping up with technological innovation is a challenge even for the most established companies regardless of the industry. Innovation is becoming revolutionary and is no longer evolutionary as it once was. It is critical that a company builds a culture that nurtures new ideas and out of the box thinking. That is the only way that a company can maintain a competitive edge with an ever-changing market and customer expectations.
Momentum is building with artificial intelligence, do you foresee any cross-over or incorporation into your products of AI?
Absolutely, AI will make robots a lot smarter and more capable. Using artificial intelligence, Cleo will be able to work alongside people in factories and warehouses increasing productivity and efficiency. It will even make it capable of saving lives during rescue missions and disaster response.
We are really excited about the future of AI.
Your thrust and steering system is clearly novel, that said can we ask how far that your patent application has progressed?
The patent process is well underway. It is a lengthy process, especially since we’re seeking worldwide protection, but we are hoping that a patent will be granted soon.
Overall how do you see the drone technology expanding or changing in the next 5 years?
I believe that drones have many uses that go far beyond taking pictures and videos, which is what drones predominantly do today. I think we will be seeing a lot more use cases for drone in the coming years. I also believe there will be new business models that will be created around these new applications. The biggest change in my opinion will be autonomy, which will allow drones to perform specific tasks on their own without the need for a human pilot.
The next 20 years?
Over the next 20 years, it wouldn’t surprise me to see drones with mechanical extensions, or “limbs”. These limbs will allow them to be able to manipulate physical objects very precisely, including picking things up and moving them around for example. In essence, drones will be able to change their environment, and interact more meaningfully with humans in the workplace and in everyday life.
There is lots of other interesting stuff happening in the drone/UAV market, what’s caught your attention?
It is very exciting to see that some drones are now capable of autonomous flight. Autonomy is the first step that will allow drones to be truly useful machines, and the more intelligent they become, the more they can do.
Anything else you’d like to add?
There is a lot of negativity that is associated with drones nowadays. This is due to their use in combat, and also because they are intimidating and impractical. Our goal is to change that by building safe and useful drones that will integrate into our lives in a seamless and non-intrusive manner.
About Omar Eleryan – Founder & CEO, Cleo Robotics Inc.
Omar Eleryan is a Cofounder and CEO of Cleo Robotics. He has a passion for robotics, and a fascination with flight since a very young age. He holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Calgary. After graduating, he worked at an international engineering firm where he was responsible for designing critical mechanical equipment. Omar is an avid reader, and a firm believer that technology should be designed and built for the ultimate benefit of society.