The Rise of Drone in a Box Solutions: From the Floor of ElevateUAV

drone in a box, ElevateUAV, drone nerds, Ready MonitorAt the Drone Nerds ElevateUAV Summit in Miami today, drone legend Brandon Torres Declet presented on a new industry sector: fully automated, Drone in a Box (DIAB) solutions.

Torres Declet began his career in the drone industry with Measure: founded in 2017 as one of the first drone service providers.  Now, Torres Declet is in the drone services space again as a board member of Ready Monitor, offering turnkey drone-in-a-box solutions, operated remotely by professional pilots.

Brandon Torres Declet

Drone in a Box Solutions

Drone in a box solutions, or drone dock solutions, provide the opportunity for entirely remote operations.  Pilots can launch and operate a DIAB from a remote center, which could be hundreds or thousands of miles away from the actual aircraft.

“I think we’re at an inflection point with Drone in a Box solutions,” says Torres Declet.  “…It’s now all technologically feasible to do beyond visual line of sight, totally automated operations.”

The drone industry touts their ability to take on “dull, dirty, and dangerous” jobs.  “DIAB solutions are ideally suited for the dull operations,” says Torres Declet.   For repetitive ops like perimeter surveillance, operations in remote or inaccessible locations, uncrewed or vacant areas like older mining sites, or for unpredictable demands like search and rescue, DIAB solutions can be ideal.  “They don’t get stuck in traffic or call in sick, and are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice,” says Torres Declet.

Drone in a Box Services

Offering drone services with a DIAB solution is different than equipping pilots with aircraft, Torres Declet points out.  DIAB solutions require physical installation, with power sources and high bandwidth connectivity.  They need ongoing maintenance, integration with existing software, and updating and upgrading.  Critically, drone in a box services require a Remote Operations Center (ROC) where pilots can operate and monitor flights.

DIAB solutions also offer a variety of options for deployment.  Some are vehicle mounted, commonly used by first responders with staff that can train as Part 107 pilots.  Other customer choose to own and operate their own DIAB solutions: operating from their own ROC.  This is the model that pioneer users like Florida Power and Light have chosen, partly because they cannot easily allow outside service providers to monitor sensitive infrastructure.

Ready Monitor offers outsourced DIAB deployment.  “This is for customers who don’t want to deal with the FAA and the drones,” says Torres Declet.  Removing the complexities of regulatory compliance, hardware maintenance, software integration, and operations makes it easy for enterprise customers to realize the benefits of a drone program, and is still cost effective.

Why Now? Waivers, Regulations, and Technology

Torres Declet points out that dock technology isn’t new, showing a picture of a dock product launched in 2014.  That product ultimately failed because regulations didn’t allow operations at scale.  Regulations still provide the major sticking point for DIAB operations: Ready Monitor has been working with the FAA to obtain their waiver for a year.

“The FAA decides when, where and how drones are operated in the National Airspace,” says Torres Declet. “,,,We need to see regulations from the FAA that allows BVLOS operations, no operator on sight, totally autonomous operations to see [drone in a box solutions] take off.”

Despite the difficulties in navigating the regulatory landscape, waivers are appearing to allow operations at sufficient scale to offer value to enterprise customers.  New technologies like computer vision Detect and Avoid, better automated platforms, and more robust ecosystem software has made it possible for providers to successfully argue the safety case for fully remote, BVLOS operations.  “The regulatory logjam is about to be broken,” says Torres Declet.  “I really do believe that.  And it will help companies in this space begin to actually talk to customers about what is possible.”

Asked when DIAB deployments will become more feasible at scale, Torres Declet predicts it will be soon, despite delays on a BVLOS rulemaking.

“I think there are going to be some ground-breaking waivers in this area this year that are actually going to allow for this promise of operations beyond visual line of sight, anywhere in the United States except for near an airport.  That waiver may happen even before we see a BVLOS rule.”