Having just celebrated their one-year anniversary, the Droniq team shared with me their accomplishments over the last year and I have to say they have come a long way since I first spoke with them during the summer of 2019 in conjunction with an article developed for ATM Magazine. They recently shared a press release also highlighting some of their activities. It was great to have the opportunity to go into a little more detail.
The first accomplishment we discussed was around their relationship with Sky Drone. Droniq is the exclusive distributor within Germany. They offer a module that sends command and control and payload data via LTE real-time during flight. The data that is transmitted could be images, video or sensor data. What’s most interesting here is the linkage to beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights. Sky Drone has two hook-on devices (HoD) available and one is specifically for streaming content. This translates into the drone pilot being able to see what the drone ‘sees’ while in flight. If the LTE coverage isn’t where it needs to be along the route, the video quality is reduced automatically so that it can still send this important data.
Living in Germany, I can attest to the fact that Germany is the land of insurance. I have never had so many insurance policies as I do now and it’s just the norm. So what about drone insurance? It’s likely something that not everyone considers or even expects if you live elsewhere, but in Germany its required to have liability insurance if you are flying drone operations. Most policies only insure when flying in a line-of-sight manner, BVLOS is not covered. Droniq is partnering with R&V Versicherung to provide BVLOS liability in Germany.
We also discussed the use cases they are currently seeing in the market. Inspection and maintenance is a key activity where BVLOS will come into play allowing for flights to take place that travel more than 180 kilometres. Transportation of goods is another category which has seen an uptake during the COVID-19 pandemic. The need to move medical supplies and samples between locations is pushing this use case forward. It will only increase and remain a key solution after this challenging time has passed. Regulation is still hindering more investment into use cases as there are still many outstanding questions. As we move forward with these topics the focus will be how to move from tests into profitable business models.
Given the combination of telecommunications and air traffic control investors in Droniq (DFS and Deutsche Telekom in case you aren’t aware of this), it’s important to consider there might be a different view as to the integration of UTM with ATM then other players in this space. As expected, the view is that integration is required. Some others will say that segregation is a faster route to market. Although this might be true, it can’t possibly scale in this fashion as the number of drones exponentially increases and they start carrying people. Airspace at this point much be managed with a complete situational awareness view available to air traffic controllers. We agree on these points.
Additionally, I like to raise the question of security. I believe the drones supported by the telecommunications network with follow the path of IoT. First we had all sorts of ‘things’ hanging off the network in an unprotected fashion and then hackers found openings and things started to get interesting. Now you see many telecommunications providers offering managed security services for IoT networks. This must be the path for drones to follow. Especially when considering the topics raised in the prior paragraph. This is a question I posed to the Droniq team and found agreement on this item also. As a part of digitization and automation discussions with customers they are absolutely finding cybersecurity as a key priority.
Congratulations to the team on their first birthday, I look forward to hearing the news from year two.