As part of the US Army’s ongoing Short Range Reconnaissance (SRR) effort directed towards “eye in the sky” technologies the U.S. Army Program Executive Officer (PEO) for Aviation’s Project Manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, partnered with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) and the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence to identify and prototype new drone capabilities with commercial companies.
The prototype is expected to be “rapidly deployable” and capable of performing battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance. The specific requirements as per the original solicitation outline- airborne time of 30 minutes and a range of up to three kilometers. Officials also specified that the aircraft should weigh three pounds or less, and should require less than 2 minutes to assemble and fit inside a soldier’s standard-issue rucksack.
Parrot, the leading European drone group, is one of the 6 companies that have met the standards set in the solicitation issued in November 2018 to develop and prototype the next generation of small-unit surveillance drones. The other companies are Skydio, Altavian, Teal Drones, Vantage Robotics and Lumenier. To date, SRR has awarded $11 million in funding to contract awardees.
Henri Seydoux, founder and CEO of Parrot said in a statement, “The United States has always been a major market for the Parrot Group whether it is for our well-known consumer range or our advanced professional offering … We look forward to focusing our advanced R&D on meeting the high standards set by the U.S. Army, to integrate drone efficiency in their day to day operations and support the world-leading army defense system.”
Parrot offers multiple business solutions covering drones, software and services focusing mainly on 3 major verticals: (i) Agriculture, (ii) 3D Mapping, Surveying and Inspection and (iii) Public safety.
Although DJI is considered the world’s largest and most popular drone maker, increasing pressure from the US government on Chinese companies amid President Donald Trump’s trade war, which has thus far been most aggressively focused on Android phone maker Huawei it seems more American and European options will replace Chinese brands for lucrative government contracts.
Government agencies globally are increasingly partnering with private enterprise to explore novel uses of drone technology. The San Diego Fire Department (SDFD) among many others have begun actively deploying drones as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) unmanned aerial systems integration pilot program. In May, the FAA chose 10 winners from a pool of more than 160 applicants interested in reimagining how drones can be used by governments and private industry. Even telepresence drone piloting company Cape and others in the industry have begun partnering with first responders like the Chula Vista Police Department for field tests.
According to analyst firm Envision Intelligence, military drone applications constitute almost 70 % of the market while consumer applications just 17% and miscellaneous uses like filmmaking and climate modeling in the commercial realm just constitute13%. Approximately $565 million was invested in UAV startups in 2016 alone, and the market is forecast to become a $127 billion industry by 2020.
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