Drone-as-a-Service company SkyX operates long-distance drones with a 100km (62 mile) range. But because their applications include inspecting pipelines, even that impressive range isn't long enough. Thus the company developed drone recharging stations to place along pipelines, effectively giving their drones unlimited range.
The problem: They developed the recharging stations in-house, and they were freaking expensive. They turned to industrial design and engineering consultancy Design 1st for help.
Design 1st explains:
This rugged, weatherproof Command Center is a 'Drone Recharging Garage' managed by a remote operations center. These garages are a climate-controlled series of landing stations in the wilderness. SkyX introduces the xStation designed to recharge and protect SkyX's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) on its long distance sorties. The UAV drone is an autonomous hybrid aircraft with ~2m wingspan. Like the Garage, the UAV is remotely controlled and launches vertically before leveling out into fixed-wing flight with a range of 100km (62 miles) for remote aerial monitoring of long-range infrastructure assets.
Product Design Requirements
SkyX came to Design 1st needing help redesigning their remote-controlled drone recharging station. The current design cost was 2.5x the target cost and was challenging to manufacture, assemble, and transport.
- Re-design existing drone station to decrease production and transportation costs
- Maintain the actuated roof to allow safe landing of the (UAV) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
- Meet aggressive timeline of 7-month delivery of a working pre-production prototype
Design and Engineering Challenges
To meet SkyX's requirements, the Design 1st team chose a custom shipping container and began work on the internal design, component selection, and testing.
- Design a dual-axis Gantry that could safely raise and lower to land, secure, transport and charge the UAV
- Build and test a customized off the shelf hydraulic roof opening system, lift and rotation system, and programmable logic controller (PLC)
- Conducted round-the-clock rapid tests during fall and winter months to ensure doors were leak-proof and inside temperatures were acceptable during the harsh freeze thaw and -30C winter weather conditions
SkyX Product Results
SkyX accepted delivery of the fully functional prototype right at their 7-month timeline and put into field use for testing. The results were a success, and SkyX began a low-volume manufacturing run to expand operations.
- Design 1st designed, fabricated and tested over 150 custom mechanical parts, over 350 electronics components and sensors
- SkyX raised $13.5M Series B funding following launch of their UAV recharging drone station
- SkyX is accelerating global expansion of their autonmous drone system for the Oil and Gas industry