Skysense Charging Pad provides autonomous UAS operations

By Patrick C. Miller | November 06, 2014

Skysense Inc. has launched a line of charging pads for unmanned aerial vehicles that enables them to operate autonomously.

Andrea Puiatti, Skysense CEO, said that not only is the technology attracting the attention of UAV manufacturers looking to integrate it into their products, but it’s also available to end users who can retrofit it to their UAVs.

According to Germany-based Skysense, its Charging Pad is a charger for unmanned aerial systems that solves the problem of recharging UAVs remotely, allowing operators to fly fully autonomous missions.

A UAV equipped with a landing gear contact attached to its battery touches down on the gold-plated power tiles covering the landing pad.

“There are spring-loaded contacts that touch the surface of the charging pad,” Puiatti said. “Once this happens, we create a shortcut between the power supply and the battery.”

Puiatti said the Skysense Charging Pads are already in commercial use in Europe, but the company is now taking orders for three different sized pads—17 inches, 34 inches and 68 inches. The pad kits are being manufactured in Germany and will be available for delivery in January.

Skysense is also developing a remote-controlled Drone Port, a dome-shaped hanger that encloses the UAV and Charging Pad to protect them from the elements. Puiatti expects the Drone Port to be available by March 2015.

Developing a practical remote-charging technology available at a reasonable price wasn’t’ easy. Skysense began working on the problem about a year ago.

“We recognized that one of the biggest problems was recharging,” Puiatti said. “You fly from A to B to C and back to A again. After 20 minutes, the battery is dead and you must recharge.”

After designing some prototypes, Puiatti and his colleagues at Skysense developed a wireless, easy-to-use technology.

“You just have to land on it to recharge—that’s it,” he explained. “It’s really easy to say, but there was a lot of work involved. It wasn’t easy to create a technology where you could land anywhere on a surface and recharge.”

Skysense has attracted the attention of DroneDeploy, Infinium Robotics and AiDrones, all of which have formed partnerships with the company to integrate its technology into their hardware, according to Puiatti.

"Skysense's autonomous charging pads are an important technology, enabling fully autonomous drone operations,” said Mike Winn, CEO of DroneDeploy.

Winn expects the Charging Pads to have wide application in future services such as Amazon’s Prime Air package delivery and for near-term applications such as DroneDeploy customers using UAS in agriculture, construction and mine surveying.

For those who already have a UAV and want to take advantage of Skysense’s recharging technology, the company sells a kit on its website with the pad and necessary parts. Puiatti said it take about 30 minutes to install the wiring and contacts.

The next step for Skysense is the Droneport, a remote-controlled hanger where a UAV can be stored during the charging process to provide protection from weather conditions.

“We’re working on an autonomous system to deploy drones to monitor oil and gas pipelines,” Puiatti said. “A solution like this provides the hardware and software framework to deploy drones.”