Start-up Skydio wants to make piloting a drone as easy as launching an app on your iPhone. Cofounded by Adam Bry SM ’12, Matt Donahoe SM ’11, and Abe Bachrach SM ’09, PhD ’13, the company is developing a way to prevent drones from crashing and making them easier to control.
Currently, drones rely on GPS to fly to specific locations, or are piloted remotely with a joystick controller. Skydio proposes to use the high-grade video cameras already built into drones to create a real-time 3-D map of the drone’s surroundings, allowing the aircraft to recognize objects—and avoid them, instead of crashing into them. An app could turn a mobile phone into a “magic wand,” used to send instructions to the drone.
A video on the company’s website demonstrates the cofounders’ vision: a drone glides around a group of trees and across a rocky landscape. In another scene, a man waves his phone gently as the drone circles him.
CEO Bry believes drones will transform the way we see the world. In a blog post, he writes, “They’ll enable us to film the best moments of our lives with professional quality cinematography and they’ll also change the way businesses think about monitoring their operations and infrastructure.”
Prior to founding Skydio, Bry, and Bachrach were founding members of the Project Wing team at Google[x]. The duo were labmates at MIT, where they worked on drone vision systems. Donahoe met Bry and Bachrach while a student at MIT’s Media Lab.
Skydio recently announced the closing of $3 million in seed funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz in partnership with Accel Partners. With this investment, the company will begin building custom hardware and advancing its technology to market.