CyPhy Works, founded as The Droid Works in 2008 by Helen Greiner in Danvers, Massachusetts, has renamed itself Aria Insights and announced a shift beyond drone production to drone-based data processing and reporting. An integrated drone plus data reporting service will be offered in the coming months.
CyPhy markets the PARC (Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications) [PDF] tethered hexacopter drone for public safety, military and industrial infrastructure applications. Tethered drones are particularly well-suited to large infrastructure projects, as they solve the fundamental problem of today’s electric powered rotor c-drones — limited flight time — with the additional benefits of autonomous operations without flyaways, even in inclement weather and windy conditions. The PARC c-drone uses an very thin “microfilament” tether for power and communications, a lightweight but strong design which maximizes payload, up to 6 lbs (2.7 kg). The tether design can keep the drone in the air for a week or more, immune to radio jamming interference or spoofing of control signals. A robotic spooler manages the tether tension; the drone can launch to or return from its legal 400 ft (122 m) ceiling with the spooler in 90 seconds. There is a backup battery aboard the drone in case of ground power interruption or if the tether separates for any reason; the battery can also provide extra power for stabilization in wind. Operators concentrate on the video or other data acquisition at the base station; Aria is working on artificial intelligence software to further reduce manual inspection of data during or after acquisition, with realtime alerts and 3D map plotting.
The company’s early contracts were with the US Army and Air Force, and they have worked with the US Secret Service, the presidential guard unit which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. More recently, following the departure of its founder, Cyphy Works/Aria has added civilian eye-in-the-sky capability in public safety events such as the Tokyo and Boston Marathons and other large events. In 2017, the UPS Foundation and the Red Cross used a PARC drone in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to assess property damage from the air, and the company partnered with Sprint to provide 2.5GHz LTE data coverage from the drone — a “virtual tower” to provide or augment cellphone coverage over a concert or in a disaster area.
As CyPhy Works, Aria has marketed drones other than the PARC in the past. In 2014, the company designed and built a small tethered hexacopter drone for the US Air Force called the Extreme Access Pocket Flyer for GPS-denied environments (tunnels, passageways, culverts). In 2015, the firm designed a consumer hexacopter called the LVL 1, capable of gimbal-free videography in level flight without tilting due to innovative “pre-tilted” rotor arms and able to fly with any two non-adjacent rotors stopped. Despite a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, nearly a year later the company cancelled the project and refunded buyers, citing component sourcing delays.
Aria underlines the advantages of sending drones instead of people to do dangerous inspection work such as for oil and gas infrastructure, as well as the added power of AI data analysis in public safety applications. Facial recognition is not available at this time, perhaps a blessing in disguise as its use is controversial.
The company does not communicate standard pricing, saying that Aria’s drone solutions are customizable to best suit a client’s specific needs. Distribution is focused on the US market, although the firm does have international clients.