Meet the man who’s setting quadrocopters free
Airobotics, the company Krauss founded, last month achieved what no other player in the drone industry had hitherto managed: regulatory approval for entirely automated flights. This landmark could the start of something big for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
So what’s the story, exactly, and what’s the lasting significance? Well, in March of this year the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel gave the nod for the Optimus quadcopter to be deployed without a human keeping an eye on it. With a battery range of around half an hour, the drones are now allowed to disappear well beyond sight of base station as they head off on their pre-programmed missions.
The permission only covers commercial use in Israel, but Optimus is so elegant, user-friendly and downright cool that it’s hard to disagree with Krauss’s vision of how it might impact everyday life if it were allowed. Krauss thinks they might even save lives, because drones could have a critical part to play in emergency situations.
But what about going beyond providing medical help in cities? Well, a bit like click-and-collect, there’s a pleasing, user-friendly and compelling neatness about the drone-in-a-box that is Optimus. It’s easy to imagine it slotting seamlessly into more aspects of everyday life. “You could come to one of our boxes, swipe your credit card, and let the drone take your house key to your kid who has locked himself outside,” says Krauss. It almost makes you want your children to lock themselves out, doesn’t it?
The current limitation to commercial purposes in Israel means a limitation to things like inspecting industrial installations, mapping projects, mining surveys and tracking stock movement on large farms, which explains why Airobotics has an office in Western Australia.
But the heavy stuff will be the thin end of the wedge, reckons Krauss, who sees ultimate city usage for drones as a no-brainer – even if he had to think big to get this far.
“To me, this was something Lockheed Martin would attempt,” he says. “We were just a bunch of wild horses, ready to gallop but with no real experience in such complex engineering. But, if you think about it, so were the Wright brothers.”
“The Wright brothers competed against an experienced, well-funded group of PhDs. But we all know who won that race: the guys from the bicycle store!”
And so, something a little similar has happened in Tel Aviv. As an inspiring innovator at the cutting edge of his industry, it’s no surprise that Ran Krauss is speaking at this year’s Pioneers Festival. Taking place once again inside the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, Pioneers Festival will as usual be rammed with future revolutions – and not just unmanned aerial ones!