Skydio spent the summer sprucing up its Skydio 2 and 2+ drones. And just in time for fall, the California drone maker launched a pretty major software update that adds some significant, new features to a drone that you might already own.
Among the highlights: Quick Launch, a feature specifically designed to enable you to hand launch your Skydio 2 drone; and Scout Skill, which simplifies the tracking of moving subjects to offer real-time situational awareness.
Here are some of the most significant changes to come out of the fall 2022 Skydio software update:
Hand launches are a bit controversial for some in the drone community, but it seems that Skydio has made them a lot better. That’s all thanks to Quick Launch, which is specifically designed to make hand launches easier. Now, you can launch your Skydio 2 or 2+ drone by using the battery power button, making it so you don’t have to balance the controller in one hand with your drone in the other.
Quick Launch or not, realize that launching and landing drones from your hand is inherently more risky, and you should never touch the spinning propellers.
And of course, simply pressing the power button won’t just let it take off. You’ll first have to enable the feature by going into device settings. Once enabled, you’ll still have to tap the battery power button four times to initiate launch.
Skydio says the Quick Launch feature allows “for better focus on your drone.” Even still though, hand launching should not be attempted in unstable environments, such as during high winds or while standing on a moving vehicle or boat.
And it also aids in the idea of drones being able to takeoff quickly, which can be important in emergency response scenarios. In fact, Skydio claims that the Skydio X2 can be deployed in under 90 seconds.
Lock Beacon Controls
The Skydio Beacon is a magic wand of sorts for your drone that lets you point it in the sky indicating where the drone will fly. It also has a number of other super powers, including extending your drone’s range up to 1.5 km (without the Beacon, the range is a maximum of 3.5 km). It also enables the drone to carry out flights in more complex environments where the drone can’t necessarily see you, like if you’re walking through thick trees.
But while the Beacon is all good, some users would complain that an accidental motion would compel the drone to do an unwanted action. Say, accidentally pressing the Beacon in your pocket might generate an accidental command to stop tracking.
With this fall 2022 Skydio software update, the new Lock Beacon Controls mitigates that. You can access this feature by heading to device settings in the app and navigating to the Beacon menu tab.
Scout skill (available on Skydio X2E)
Skydio Scout is a new “skill” for Skydio X2E drones that makes it easier to fly around and keep up with a tracked GPS position. F
Note that the Skydio Scout flight skill feature is only available on Skydio X2E, which is the roughly $11,000 enterprise model of the Skydio 2 drone and includes upgraded features like a FLIR® 320×256 thermal sensor.
And with this latest software update comes a new skill to the already tricked-out drone. Called Scout Skill, it simplifies the tracking of moving subjects by letting you follow and track a GPS position at long range while letting you adjust and reposition your drone on the fly, either through the Skydio Enterprise Controller or Skydio Beacon — and no manual operation needed. It even works when the drone is outside your line of sight.
Seeing it in action is pretty neat, which you can somewhat get a feel for in this video using police drone operators produced by Skydio:
To use it, simply Begin your flight, launch, select “Scout” from the skills menu and tap to track either from your Skydio Enterprise Controller or Skydio Beacon.
Of course, you will need a strong GPS signal to engage this function.
Other Skydio software updates
The latest Skydio software update also included a few other, smaller changes. There’s the ability to delete your user account permanently (which includes permanently removing all flight data associated with your drone). That could be useful for applications include if you plan to sell your drone. There are also a few improvements to Skydio’s KeyFrame tech, allowing you to control the KeyFrame through three modes: Absolute, Relative and Off, all of which have a different impact on the joystick, as well as a minor tweak to case landing and charging processes.
What’s happening over at Skydio these days?
The last big software update from Skydio (prior to the summer Skydio software update) came in March 2022, which was largely centered around further improving Skydio KeyFrame. Skydio launched Skydio KeyFrame — which automated the cinematic filming process — alongside its Skydio 2+ drone at the beginning of the year. Since that March software updates, there have only been a couple other updates that have been fairly minor and largely unnoticeable improvements or bug fixes. You can read even more details about the latest Skydio software update in the company’s blog post here.
Besides that, Skydio is projecting massive growth and is on a huge hiring spree. It has roughly 75 open positions, mostly in its offices in San Mateo, California, located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of those positions are in R&D and more particularly in engineering. Though, open Skydio jobs encompass nearly all aspects of the business, including marketing, sales, policy making and even drone pilot.
The company has seen major growth this year, especially on the enterprise side of things. It has landed big deals with companies including Dominion Energy and Taser-maker Axon. And at the end of August, Skydio announced a significant U.S. Army contract worth potentially up to $99.8 million.