What are the newest, hottest, most innovative things happening in drones this year? The Association for Uncrewed Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) this month named the finalists in the 2023 AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards.
The sixth annual AUVSI awards program looks at the accomplishments of companies, organizations and individuals across the uncrewed systems community. The awards ceremony is broken down into a few categories: Academic Research, Innovation, Technology and Mission (some of which have their own subcategories). Ultimately the final winners will be announced during the XPONENTIAL 2023 conference on May 8-11, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado, which is set to be one of the largest drone events of 2023.
But for now, the 43 finalists sheds light on what are the top drone companies to watch in 2023, and it offers key insights into what the future of the drone industry holds.
Some of these 2023 AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards finalists actually show up multiple times, which perhaps suggests even bigger players in propelling the industrial forward. That includes American drone company Skydio. Its Skydio Scout product was nominated for best software design and coding, while its Skydio Dock was awarded a nomination for the innovation category.
So with that, here are the 43 finalists in the 2023 AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards, broken down by category:
2023 AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards: Academic Research nominees
- Neural10, Autonomous Navigation in GPS-Denied Zones
- Ocean Alliance, Tagging Whales with Drones
- University of Colorado Boulder, 20 Years of UAS Research XCELLENCE
- University of Michigan, Alireza Mohammadi
- Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, Robert Briggs
2023 AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards: Innovation nominees
- Austal USA, Austal MCS
- Plus, PlusDrive, An Industry-defining Driver-in, Highly Automated Driving (HAD) Solution
- Sentera, Eliminating Stitching with the Sentera DGR System
- Skydio, Skydio Dock, Automated Inspections of Sites with Autonomous, Remote Drone Operations
- UPS Flight Forward, Inc., Safety Management System First in the Industry Accepted by the FAA
2023 AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards: Operation nominees
- Advanced Navigation, Cloud Ground Control
- City of Pendleton, Pendleton UAS Range
- JobsOhio and the Ohio Department of Transportation, Propelling AAM in Ohio
2023 AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards: Technology nominees
Enabling Components & Peripherals
- Elsight, Elsight Halo
- infiniDome, infiniDome’s GPSdome2
- LEMO Corporation, LEMO M Series High Power
- MatrixSpace, MatrixSpace Networked Radar
- SBG Systems, Quanta Micro
Hardware & Systems Design
- Advanced Navigation, Hydrus
- Connect Tech, Anvil Embedded System with NVIDIA® Jetson AGX Orin™
- D-Fend Solutions, EnforceAir
- ModalAI, Inc., VOXL® 2: 16g Blue UAS Framework 2.0 Autopilot
- TOPODRONE, TOPODRONE AQUAMAPPER
Software Design and Coding
- Advanced Navigation, Cloud Ground Control
- AlarisPro, Inc., AlarisPro Safety Ecosystem (ASE) – Advancing UAS Reliability Through Shared Data Across UAS Operators and Manufacturers
- BlueSpace.ai, 4D Predictive Perception enabled Scalable and Explainable AI for Autonomy
- Skydio, Skydio Scout, Situational Awareness for Moving Convoys
- VOTIX, VOTIX
2023 AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards: Workforce Development nominees
- DroneUp, with partner, Richard Bland College, Established the First Commercial Drone Workforce Training Program for College Credit
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide and Warren College, Better Together: Producing Effective Educational Opportunities for the UAS Workforce
- Fullerton College, Fullerton Drone Lab, Drone Piloting Registered Apprenticeship
- Laurel Ridge Community College, Laurels Take Flight
- National Robotics Education Foundation NREF, National Robotics Education Foundation (NREF)
2023 AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards: Mission nominees
- ArroTech, Dr. Stephen Dunnivant
- MissionGO, Inc., Operation Healing Eagle Feather
- Near Earth Autonomy, Autonomous Aerial Blood & Medical Supply Delivery to the Wounded
- The David McAntony Gibson Foundation (GlobalMedic), GlobalMedic RescUAV Response to La Soufrière Volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- UCAL Fuel Systems Limited, Drone Based Disaster Relief
- Brookhaven GA Police Department, Brookhaven Police sUAS Team
- DRONERESPONDERS, DRONERESPONDERS Public Safety Alliance
- Hidden Level, Inc., Airspace Monitoring Service (AMS)
- Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Public Safety
- United States Forest Service, Testing and Scaling New Technologies for Operations and Safer Mixed Airspace Ops
Most of the nominees are building products that augment or improve drones, such as Neural10’s research on improving autonomous navigation for drones in GPS-denied zones and TOPODRONE’s Aquamapper, which uses drones for bathymetric surveys and marine construction.
And almost every nominee is enterprise or research focused, rather than consumer focused. Take for example, Skydio. Its Skydio 2+ camera drone is largely considered the best follow-me drone out there. But both of Skydio’s nominations are for its new enterprise offerings, Skydio Scout and Skydio Dock.
Skydio started leaning into the enterprise side of drones hard, particularly in 2022. Skydio’s proprietary framework for writing algorithmic code for their drones, called SymForce, this year became open source. And in May 2022, Axon and Skydio announced that public safety agencies flying Skydio drones and using Axon Respond, Axon’s real-time operations platform, would have the ability to access drone live-streams — in theory providing more comprehensive views of incidents. A year prior in 2021, Skydio publicly launched Skydio 3D Scan, which is an ‘adaptive mapping software’ that’s intended to better automate data capture with drones. Most enterprise drone flights that rely on Skydio use either the Skydio X2D or X2E drones, which start at north of $10,000.
Another interesting nominee is infiniDome, which rose to prominence for its product intended to combat the rising trend of other people trying to jam drones (preventing them from flying). InfiniDome is there to keep on keeping on with drone flying, as it develops GPS protection and resilient navigation solutions tailored to defend UAVs and vehicles from jamming attacks. One of its key products, GPSdome2, protects GNSS systems from jamming, which is becoming a growing concern for unmanned and manned critical applications.
What drone companies or projects are you watching in 2023? Leave a comment below!