Drone docks have been one of the biggest trends in 2023, with big drone companies like Skydio and DJI building docking stations specific to their drone. But what do you do if you’re a drone operator who owns multiple aircraft from different companies? This platform-agnostic drone dock from StrixDrones might be the solution.
Aptly named DroneDock, it’s a drone dock that will support pretty much any drone. The patented docking tech is made by Israeli-based drone company StrixDrones, which was founded in 2019. StrixDrones claims it’s the “only universal and fully autonomous drone docking station” available on the market today.
Drone docks have becoming a popular way of enabling drones to take off, land and recharge without actually needing a human operator physically with the drone. This dock (like many others) is super heavy so it’s not easily stolen, even when left out in publicly-accessible spaces; the DroneDock weighs about 3,000 pounds.
Here’s how it works: a DroneDock is placed at one block (let’s say a medical lab). A drone flies from there to a hospital to deliver test results. It might then fly on to another DroneDock where it charges its battery, downloads a new mission and takes off again — perhaps even dropping off one more package while it’s at it.
For now, StrixDrones is offering it up in two sizes, the Strix1600 and Strix2100. The Strix2100 is better for larger drones and eVTOL, and it also features internal climate control, smart charging, external telemetric weather system, real time alerts and multi-station connections.
Both will be available for lease or purchase. But because units are made to be customizable, there aren’t currently any off-the-shelf units available. StrixDrones also wouldn’t share any sort of price estimates, only stating that “our custom solutions are priced according to the client’s needs and special requests.”
For what it’s worth, enterprise pricing is rarely transparent across many drone brands.But for context, the DJI Dock with DJI Matrice 30 tends to run about $30,000. The DJI Matrice 30 Enterprise costs about $10,000 on its own, which would put the DJI Dock at roughly $20,000. Here’s a look at the DJI Dock in action:
What’s the benefit of a platform-agnostic drone dock?
Unlike the existing docking systems on the market today that are designed to work with specific drones (such as the Atlas 300 from FlytBase and Hextronics, which is designed specifically for the DJI M300 drone), StrixDrones’ DroneDock has a universal, modular-designed landing pad so that pretty much any drone made by any manufacturer (including eVTOL drones), can land without special adjustments.
For operators who use multiple drones from different makers, DroneDock enables them to use the same dock to support all their drones — thus making fleets more productive, efficient, and cost-effective. It also gives flexibility if their fleet expands. If they have a drone and drone dock from one maker that they decide they want to stop using in favor of another drone, they’d only have to acquire a new drone, rather than a new drone and a dock.
In its marketing materials, StrixDrones has been calling it both a fully autonomous ‘drone airport’ and a ‘drone delivery mailbox system.’ Both comparisons aren’t quite right — after all, there’s no mail courier, no security screening, and no one waiting to board a plane.
And airports house multiple aircraft at once; this DroneDock is capable of holding just one at a time. (though people seeking a solution to store multiple drones at one time might look to the Strix DroneHive).
What makes the docks a bit airport-like are that they provide shelter for the drones (they securely seal the drone when it’s not flying) and a refueling source (the drone charges through the dock). Charging is done via induction through a patent-pending Smart Charger which, again, is platform-agnostic so it can support most drones.
And, the DroneDock has other nifty safety and security features, such as Detect and Avoid radar to ensure safe takeoff and landing. A second example is an RF booster and 5G communication module supporting communication where RF/Cellular is not stable.
A made in America drone dock
But while the drone makers are headquartered in Israel, DroneDock itself is manufactured in Dayton, Ohio at a StrixDrone manufacturing facility that opened roughly a year ago. Besides having a couple full-time employees in Ohio, StrixDrones also subcontracts with local material suppliers in Dayton, including RAM Precision Industries and NCT Technologies Group.
Outside of Dayton, StrixDrones also runs a business development office in Miami, Florida. American-made drones and drone products have been of critical importance, especially as of late. In fact, any federal branches of government require that the drones and drone products used are made in the USA.
The company said it intends to hire an additional 10 employees in the near term, adding more STEM-related jobs to Dayton and potentially contributing to what some locals are hoping will be the city’s emergence as a national tech hub. Though, other Strix drone products, such as the Strix DroneHive, are not made in the U.S.
Who are the biggest StrixDrones Docking Station customers?
The first Strix2100 DroneDocks are being sent to Spright, which is the drone delivery division of Air Methods. Air Methods’ Spright division launched in August 2021 to build a drone-based network to deliver medical-related supplies and equipment across the U.S. Among Spright’s operations include a $16 million agreement with German drone delivery giant Wingcopter to operate the Wingcopter 198 drones throughout the Hutchinson Regional Health System, in Hutchinson, Kansas.
But Spright also uses more than just Wingcopter drones. It’s also flying Blueflite and RigiTech aircraft, both aircraft can land at the DroneDock. Blueflite, which has been in the business of drone delivery since 2018, is based in Michigan and builds a patented drone that stands out primarily for its unique, all-electrical drone design with vertical take-off and landing capabilities. RigiTech is based in Switzerland.
StrixDrones also says its DroneDock is military grade, thus capable of operations including being deployed along borders to assist with national security or for implementation during military missions.
The company also said its dock would be applicable in sectors including agriculture, oil and gas, mining, sensitive infrastructure, and emergency and first responses.