Skyfish launches American-made answer to the DJI M30

Drone pilots seeking a drone similar to the DJI M30 — but that’s made in America — might now have their answer. Montana-based drone company Skyfish launched its new Osprey drone in April 2024.

And it’s shaping up to be an alternative for pilots demanding a U.S.-made drone that’s also lightweight, compact enough to fit in a backpack, and is powerful enough for enterprise use cases including infrastructure inspections as well as ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance).

The survey-grade drone targets though two use cases — inspections and ISR — specifically. That’s due in large part because of its ability to support third-party sensors such as the new Sony LR1 61-megapixel camera for inspection and photogrammetry and NextVision’s Raptor for ISR. 

The Skyfish Osprey drone. (Photo courtesy of Skyfish)

Here are some key features of the new Osprey drone:

  • 14 lbs (all up weight)
  • Flight time of up to 60 minutes
  • 3-5 mile radio range
  • Includes collision avoidance software
  • Allows for automated in-flight geotagging of frame synchronous data
  • Features RTK for cm grade location accuracy
  • X80 EO zoom (X40 + X2 digital) and significant IR range
  • High resolution: up to 61 megapixels for inspection and photogrammetry

Perhaps most tantalizing, though, is how many boxes it checks in terms of security compliance and American-made. It satisfies the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)’s Buy American Act requirements. That Act mandates that 65% of the content (as measured by cost) was made in America. It’s also NDAA-compliant, which means it has achieved critical security standards. And it’s Army DEVCOM certified Airworthiness Level 3. 

“Osprey is an American-Made drone designed to be lightweight, fly up to an hour, record an exact location, and support best-in-class industry sensors for either infrastructure inspection, or ISR.” says Dr. Orest Pilskalns, CEO of Skyfish.

The Osprey controller

The new remote controller for Osprey is designed, engineered and built by Skyfish, leveraging a Samsung tablet.  The controller, like the drone itself, is NDAA-compliant.

Osprey works with a customized version of QGroundControl for its flight navigation, which is integrated with Skyfish’s proprietary remote controller. The ground control station for the MAVLink protocol uses a Samsung tablet and offers an 8″ or 10″ screen for viewing of real-time video feeds and 4 joysticks (2 for navigation, 2 for sensor control).

Using Osprey for infrastructure inspections

Skyfish has long been a specialist in mapping, modeling, and radar technology. Its new Osprey drone creates very precise 3D models, or digital twins, that are are crystal clear, measurable, and accurate to within 1/32 of an inch. They’re designed for use cases including inspection, precisely measuring and analyzing infrastructure including cellular towers, bridges, roadways, wind turbines, airports, power lines and specialized land use management.

Beyond the new Osprey drone, Skyfish builds a full UAS technology stack, including an autonomous navigation platform, and precision measurement capabilities. Its customers are those needing highly accurate inspections, measurements, and analysis. 

For use cases like inspections or photogrammetry, the Osprey drone works with the Sony ILX-LR1. That ultra-powerful camera dropped in fall 2023 as a a full-frame, interchangeable lens camera. With a backside illuminated sensor and compatibility with the Sony Camera Remote SDK, it’s a critical tool for drone pilots. Here are some of the Sony ILX-LR1’s key specs:

  • 61-MP camera
  • Full frame image sensor
  • Interchangeable e-mount precision lenses
  • Remote operation
  • 35mm full-frame back illuminated Exmor R™ CMOS image sensor
  • Natural gradations and realistic colors
  • Wide ISO range of 100-32000

The Sony ILX-LR1 alone retails for about $3,000.

But the package together could prove to compete in some capacity with the DJI M30. The Chinese-made DJI M30 starts at about $6,500 and is designed for mapping — even in harsh conditions like heavy rain. Like the Osprey, it’s also designed to be ultra-portable, this one weighing only 3.7 kilograms and capable of folding via just pressing a button.

Using Osprey for ISR

When paired with the NextVision Raptor EO-IR sensor, Osprey is able to provide compact and powerful visual awareness, That sensor stands out for its zoom function up to 80X.

Some key specs of the NextVision Raptor:

  • X80 EO zoom (X40 + X2 digital)
  • Significant IR range
  • Rainproof
  • Day, low-light, and night-time capabilities ranging from Near-Infrared (NIR) to Long Wave Infrared (LWIR) imaging

If you want to see the Osprey with your own eyes, head to AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2024. That conference is arguably one of the top drone events of 2024. XPONENTIAL will feature dozens of exhibitors including Skyfish, and will run from April 22-25 in San Diego, California.

Other drones in the Skyfish family include the Skyfish M4 and Skyfish M6. Those drones famously integrate with the Sony Alpha series of cameras, providing a U.S.-made way to fly Sony cameras. The company also serves up a compelling alternative to the Sony Airpeak drone.

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