AUVSI Day 1: Dog with a Quad-copter


Our CEO, Jeff Immelt, recently made a reference to watching his dogs play with a new toy—how they’re at first fascinated, then proceed to play hard and all but destroy the thing, before dropping it and moving on to the next new toy. His context was the necessity of business to be purposeful, and follow through in the discovery, nurturing or acquisition of new capability or businesses. When it’s new, it gets lots of focus—but it then frequently loses luster and attention, which can negatively impact the business.

I had to laugh for a bit. Not at my CEO’s message, of course, as it was spot on, but at my own dog’s same behavior with new toys. In fact, I got a small quad-copter from my brother for Christmas. Just after I got comfortable with flying it around and got the trim correct—well, you can imagine how long my new toy lasted with the dog around. My German Shorthaired Pointer wagged his way back to me for approval after he rendered the buzzing copter to a non-threatening state.

The unmanned systems market, on full display here at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems Conference in Atlanta is full of new toys, if you will. AUVSI brings together the largest unmanned systems community including both commercial and military providers. It’s becoming a crowded space with numerous new entries. Those with purposeful execution will reap the rewards as the market for aerial imaging alone is estimated to reach almost $2bn in the next five years or so, according to Transparency Market Research.

What used to be the domain of the military is quickly becoming the new toy for the commercial and industrial markets. While the burgeoning unmanned systems market has lit up the toy market with numerous offerings that just about anybody can fly, the business of unmanned systems, beyond military applications, is now serious business. It is a new tool that offers a whole new means of approaching certain tasks or brings new capability not otherwise achievable without the technology. A UAV provided some of the first overhead images in Nepal following the devastating earthquake. Manned helicopters are now bringing climbers and crew down from Everest; it is entirely within the realm of possibility that this could be achieved with unmanned rotorcraft in the future.

A variety of modern technologies and ingenuity is making this all possible. But what becomes intriguing with this new unmanned systems tool and the increased commercial market interest is how it will drive more innovation and engineering of capabilities specific to unmanned systems. These capabilities are broad, including propulsion, sensors, control systems, mission planning and management, autonomy, sense and avoid (dogs included), and so on. GE’s Intelligent Platforms business is excited and fortunate to be part of this growing industry providing critical computing technologies for unmanned systems control, sensor processing and autonomy.

David French

David is the Director of Business Development for aviation programs for Abaco Systems. He started out his career as a design and systems engineer for space platforms and launch vehicle avionics. Impatient with the sometimes slow pace of new development opportunity there, he directed his energy toward the broader embedded computing universe from telecommunications infrastructure to defense electronics. He still marvels at the challenge and discovery in applied science and technology.

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