This Arizona startup creates cool drones and copters – and just surpassed $200K on Kickstarter
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The SkyProwler, a fast rising ambulance drone that has raised more than $200,000. Photo Credit: PR

From emergency medical uses, to 3D camera footage, to fancy cruisers for high-net worth individuals, Arizona-based startup KrossBlade is developing promising aerial vehicles with a lot of early adoption

Arizona-based startup Krossblade Aerospace Systems just surpassed their $200,000 Kickstarter goal to support the production of SkyProwler, a UAV/drone that can drop off emergency medical equipment. In many cases this would be faster and cheaper than sending out an ambulance.

It differs from other drones in that it has an automatic cargo drop door, allowing cargo to be dropped in flight, whether in hover or cruise flight. This allows for the drop of emergency medical equipment like insulin or an EpiPen to treat severe allergic reactions or the drop of emergency supplies like water and food for people stuck in remote areas like canyons, mountains, etc. It also appears to have much more advanced features than other emergency oriented drones, such as the Defikopter, which we reviewed in November.

As described in the video tutorial below, the average ambulance cost for an emergency response is $1,500 and takes 10-15 minutes to come. The SkyProwler’s services cost only $50, and the response time is half that of an ambulance, at 6-8 minutes on average. To buy a SkyProwler is also fairly cheap for such high quality drones, costing merely $1,000-$3,000. Beyond early adopters, who have enthusiastically supported this on Kickstarter (you still have four days to chip in to the campaign), first responders and emergency aid organizations such as the Red Cross will likely be interested in using this cost effective solution.

The other key perk of the SkyProwler is its camera footage capabilities. The Kickstarter packages will ship with 3D stabilized Eye Cam. Considering the video below was shot with only 2D stabilized Eye Cam, this should be very cool.

Would you rather buy a private plane or helicopter? Now you can have both in a single aircraft

Remember Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the magical car that turned into an airplane, a helicopter, a speed boat and other vehicles depending on the adventures of the children at the helm? This multipurpose vehicle was the brainchild of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, who brought it to life in the 1960s as a bedtime story for his son.

It seems that the more time passes, the more science fiction turns into reality. That is certainly the case with the SkyCruiser, a 5-seat, hybrid helicopter and airplane based on the same technology as the SkyProwler. In fact, the SkyCruiser even has the ability to morph into a ground vehicle, but due to weight considerations, it isn’t a fully functioning car.

“It’s not optimized for that for weight reasons,” KrossBlade CEO Dan Lubrich tells Geektime. “Cars need to be heavy for safety reasons but if the aircraft just goes the last half mile, you can keep it light.”

In other words, the SkyCruiser could be a flying car, but that would make it either too heavy for the air or too light for the road.

But what the SkyCruiser does do is transform from a rotor aircraft into a winged aircraft in midflight. This allows you to combine the advantages of an airplane and a helicopter. It can take off and land vertically, anywhere, but in mid-flight, the rotors fold away, transforming into an airplane that can travel up to 1,000 miles at a speed of 300 mph.

It also takes off using four rotors, as opposed to one, like a traditional helicopter. This means you don’t need a dedicated place to take off and land but can do so from a parking lot, without the wind speeds getting so high (up to 100 mph with a traditional helicopter) that you blow away everything in your path.

Check it out here:

Who needs airports?

Lubrich foresees two main uses for the SkyCruiser, which will be commercially available in 2020. One is as an aircraft for wealthy people who need to make quick trips between cities and don’t want to waste time going to an airport or heliport. Another is for emergency uses, such as evacuating someone from a remote mountaintop or canyon that isn’t accessible by vehicle.

The cost of the manned aircraft will be about $300,000.

Lubrish says there are two other hybrids on the market: the V-22 Osprey, a military aircraft, as well as the AgustaWestland AW609 TiltRotor. Lubrish says the disadvantage of the V-22 is that it only has two rotors. If one fails, there is nothing to counterbalance the second. In addition, he claims both of these aircrafts still require you to go to a dedicated heliport for landing and takeoff because the wind speeds they generate are still too high.

The SkyCruiser will be able to fly completely autonomously without human intervention. This is important because studies show that the reason small aircraft tend to crash more frequently than big ones is pilot error, “pilots who fly on weekends,” remarks Lubrich.

Why multicopters are having their breakout moment

Since helicopters and airplanes have been around for many decades, why are they only being hybridized now? Multicopters, as opposed to helicopters, he says, are not naturally stable. With Moore’s Law, computing power doubles every two years and this has made it possible to correct tiny instabilities constantly, for instance when the wind blows. Motors have also gotten stronger and sturdier in recent decades, says Lubrich.

The German-ation of an idea

It might be a very obvious metaphor, but Lubrich, who grew up in the 1980s behind the Iron Curtain in Communist East Germany, says his interest in aviation stemmed from that experience.

“How do you get out of here? This was a practical problem many people had to solve. Some were digging. Some were using balloons.That might have been the catalyst for my interest in aviation.”

Eventually, the Berlin Wall fell, and Lubrich went to the UK where he earned a PhD in physics from Oxford University.

Lubrich thinks drones get a bad rap in the media and is excited by their potential uses for emergency situations, for example.

“You read reports in the media. ‘A drone is visible over Paris.’ But nothing ever happens. No one has been injured. If you regulate drones so tightly that any legal use is forbidden, all that’s left is drug smuggling and flying them for fun, basically.”

Laura Rosbrow contributed reporting. 

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Simona Weinglass

About Simona Weinglass

I’m an old-school journalist who recently decided to pivot into high-tech. I work in high-tech marketing as well as print and broadcast media covering politics, business culture and everything in between.

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  • Rosebud

    One of our children has a nut allergy. The SkyProwler would be really useful, I hope it will soon be in wide use with hospitals.