Autonomous Drone Designed for Military Missions Unveiled

Autonomous Drone Designed for Military Missions Unveiled


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A new drone equipped with its own built-in infrared thermal camera will be marketed toward US government agencies, the military, and other organizations that require aerial surveillance or surveying.

The X2 drone was developed by the startup Skydio as its first non-consumer device. The company first entered the market a little more than two years ago with the Skydio R1, an autonomous drone that sported artificial intelligence-powered obstacle avoidance and other sensors and software features that let it seamlessly fly itself through complex outdoor environments like wooded trails while following subjects. However, it remained limited to recording extreme sports like mountain biking and other more casual activities. 

Interested in learning more about innovation in unmanned aerial vehicles? Attend the AUS&R Unmanned Systems and Robotics Conference and Exhibition on September 6, 2020

The software has been improved since, and new features were added and the company released its Skydio 2 follow-up last year, a cheaper and improved model, but it still couldn’t match the precision and control of flying and recording of a DJI drone.

The new X2 model for military and government customers features folding arms, a GPS-powered night flight, visible light and IR illuminators for flying in the dark, and a full-fledged enterprise-grade controller with a built-in touchscreen. 

Battery life is longer at 35 minutes of flight time versus 23 minutes for the Skydio 2, and it features a 320 x 256-resolution thermal camera in addition to its 12MP main camera.

There are also some new software features coming with the X2: a 360-degree “superzoom” for up to 100x zoom in all directions and a new precision mode that lets pilots fly the X2 in tighter environments without fear that the autonomous features, like obstacle avoidance, might interfere with the manual controls.

Skydio is bringing a 3D Scan feature to both the Skydio 2 and X2 later this year designed for “inspections of complex industrial structures and locations, such as bridges, building facades, energy infrastructure, accident and crime scenes.” There will also be a House Scan feature for insurance agents to automatically inspect homes.

The X2 will come in two versions, the X2D is designed explicitly for the US Army as a solution for military and defense to perform reconnaissance, search and rescue, and security patrol missions. The other is the X2E, optimized for enterprises, first responders, and civilian agencies. 

According to, the company’s transition from “selfie drone” maker to a potential contractor for the American military positions the company as a US government supplier and a competitor to China-based DJI, which has supplied drones for the US government in the past before concerns of Chinese espionage and cyberattacks led some agencies to ground their UAV fleets.

Attend the AUS&R Unmanned Systems and Robotics Conference and Exhibition on September 6, 2020