Welcome to this week’s episode of “Drones in America,” a MarketScale podcast hosted by Grant Guillot.
Guillot leads the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Practice Team for Adams and Reese, a law firm that practices across the Southern U.S. and in Washington, D.C.
On “Drones in America,” Guillot and industry leaders, influencers and experts explore the rapidly growing commercial drone industry in the U.S., guiding you through the complex web of technology, policy and more.
In this week’s episode, Guillot is joined by Ian Annase, CEO of Zing; Cameron Chell, CEO of Draganfly; and Ryan Walsh, CEO of Valqari. Each of these three service providers are utilizing drone technology to assist with the Covid-19 relief efforts.
Zing, which is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, offers an autonomous drone delivery platform that provides last mile delivery solutions. Noting that the platform is compatible with the most common drones on the market, Annase explains, “We turn the most common DJI drones, such as the Mavic, Phantom, and Inspire, into fully autonomous, last-mile delivery robots within the current FAA regulatory framework.”
Canada-based Draganfly is the oldest operating commercial drone manufacturer in North America, and its services are especially relevant with the Covid-19 pandemic necessitating social distancing.
“We can actually identify not just temperature, but fever, heart rate, respiratory rates,” explains Chell, noting that the company is “known for specialized sensors and [its] capability to deliver a drone package to…customers that gives them a strategic advantage because of the data they can collect.”
Valqari, based out of Chicago, offers a drone delivery solution that solves the last inch logistic problems with its patented Smart Drone Delivery Mailbox ALIS, which provides a secure and convenient delivery receptacle for both drone and traditional deliveries.
“We’re really focusing on the endpoint infrastructure,” Walsh explains, “so you can have automated collection of packages…for drone deliveries for medical [supplies] or meals, or other items you need, and we are really seeing the highlight of that during the quarantine and the lockdowns across the world right now.”
The guests discuss with Guillot the ways their companies are assisting business and agencies, including restaurants and public safety offices, with enforcing social distancing and isolating supply chains in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Having an autonomous rural pharmaceutical network is imperative,” Walsh says. “If a drone can deliver a test kit to [an individual’s] home, they can take the test, put in back into our mailbox, and if a drone comes and takes it to a lab and they test positive, then we can schedule drone deliveries for the next 14 days of medicine and meals and essential items so there’s much less risk of community spread.”
“We got super lucky and hooked up with one of our oldest customers, which is the University of South Australia and the Department of Defense there that supports them,” explains Chell. “They developed the technology that will sit at the bottom of a helicopter with a highly sensitive camera, and that camera would be able to pick up digitally with machine vision and AI the vital signs of people…We quickly [determined] what this could do for something like pandemic management or just general health monitoring. So we’ve adopted that technology now, which is in pilot in several places across the U.S., where basically a broad health monitoring can be done simply by using cameras. So if you’re doing a crowd control situation, you know if you are dealing with a crowd that has a 2% percent infectious rate present or not.”
“We are definitely seeing an increased interest [in drone deliveries] big-time,” says Annase. “Restaurants are really struggling right now to find any viable alternatives to take-out.”
Annase explains that Zing has been successfully delivering food over the past few weeks from Hurricane Seafood, a local restaurant in St. Petersburg. Zing successfully made the delivery within the pilot’s visual line of sight, which took only two-minutes, flying the drone over a channel that separates St. Petersburg’s Beach from Tierra Verde.
“The alternative of driving would have taken about 15 minutes by car and you would have had to cross over a drawbridge as well as go through a toll,” Annase explains, “so this 500-home community that was on the other side of this channel, [the drone delivery] actually opened up that entire customer base to that restaurant which previously did not have access to any of those 500 homes due to…the distance and the toll and the extra delivery charges that would entail.”
The guests also discuss the significance of Remote ID, the federal regulatory environment, and how their businesses have experienced increased interest in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.