Concept: Los Angeles’s drone tech startup Airrow has developed a new device for automating battery and payload swapping for drones. The startup aims to create an ecosystem that enables complete unmanned and scalable drone operations.

Nature of Disruption: Airrow has created a device to automatically remove and replace batteries and payloads for drones. It operates similarly to a computer numerical control (CNC) machine or 3D printing machine. The gantry moves along the X and Y axes to transfer the battery from charger to drone. Currently, a battery swap for a drone takes a full two minutes beginning to end. Airrow aims to get it down to around 30 seconds. The startup claims that removing human labor from the job of servicing a drone’s routine operation can reduce about 80% of the daily operational costs for drones. The new automation solution has potential use cases in food delivery as well as military applications. The solution can be customized to work with different drones to meet customers’ specific needs.

Outlook: Currently, the battery and payload swapping for drones is a manual task. For a single drone operation, it is not inconvenient however can become a major hassle when scaling up for operations including drone-based food delivery programs. The startup is collaborating with Navy SEALs for potential deployments of the new solution which can help keep drones constantly in the air. It is currently offering the solution at a price point of between $80,000 to $1,00,000 for a bundle that also includes a drone.

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