The brains behind drones

A closer look at Airware, which makes the drones work

Technology is growing, and growing fast. A few years back, it would have been impossible to imagine that there would be robots flying in the sky that would be controlled by people on the ground!

The Iron Man movies gave a glimpse of what the future can be like with drones. They can be used for a number of purposes, including defending a country.

Airware does not make drones, and neither does it plan to. It fact, it makes the brains that make the drones work. If you want to order something from Airware, you will get a logic board that handles things like auto pilot and wireless communication, in addition to all the actuators and sensors you would want in a drone.

Drones seem quite spooky. When regular folks hear “drone” or “unmanned aircraft”, they first think of the highly controversial use, which is also quite terrifying, by the military powers of the world. This is quite sad, though. For, like most technology, drones are not inherently lethal. They are also not the killing machines they are projected to be. Drones have a number of uses that are perfectly innocent, and none of these involve shooting you from the sky or getting a lot like Big Brother. In fact, all of these require a robot soaring a few thousand feet above the ground.

In Kenya, people are building drones powered by Airware in an attempt to monitor the declining population of Northern White Rhinos to oppose poaching. In the slopes, the companies are working to build drones that will help them look for skiers who are lost. There are other teams that are working on building drones that will monitor their existing infrastructure for damaged power lines or gas lines by using high resolution infrared cameras. Drones are also being built to take care of delivering vaccines urgently and in researching air quality in various regions.

This distinction is important because Airware has no intention of working with the military forces of countries. They do want to move forward, but CEO Jonathan Downey claims that not a single of their dozens of clients and customers are focused on military.

The company wants to bridge the gap between military drone work, which is massively funded, and the nascent DIY drone community, also called the “personal Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” community.

Downey discovered his love for drones while studying at MIT, and the company came into existence in 2011. He, along with a few friends, entered a competition for building drones, and were quite surprised at the limitation and black – box – like structure of the all the drone technology that was available.

After a few years, that included a stint at Boeing, Downey entered the arena of building drones full time, and also raised a small seed capital to set things in motion. By the end of 2012, the money had run dry. The company managed to enter Y Combinator’s Winter 2013 class, just as the FAA was opening up to commercial drones in the US airspace, by a twist of fate and impeccable timing. After four months and a big demo at YC, they managed to raise the whopping amount of $10.7 million!


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