The United States Department of Defense has been looking into the future lately, and drones are playing a massive role. Army needs dictate the need for single solider deployable units which can be used during every scenario from small arms fights to deep cover recon operations are on the mind of leaders DoD wide.
Announced this week by the Defense Innovation Unit and the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence have put forward $11 million US dollars in order to identify a new developer, manufacturer, and designer for a small unmanned short ranged UAS platform which can gives soldiers the edge on the battlefield.
Six companies have been chosen by the DoD but the most notable is the non-US company Parrot. The solicitation process which took place in November of 2018 listed criteria for an easily deployable drone which could be used to enhance situational awareness in the field. Parrot's ANAFI is now a top contender to be redesigned for these mission specific uses by the DoD and Army. The redesign is expected to have the following:
- 30 Minutes of flight time
- Deployable in under 2 minutes
- Easily carried in a standard issue backpack or ruck sack
- 3 km range
- A weight of 3 lbs or less
An impressive list of items to be covered, that Parrot believes will be no problem for their own R&D teams when matched with the innovation of the DoD, and US Army.
More impressive here is that Parrot is now shining once again on the world stage where DJI has dominated the market since 2013.However, it comes as no surprise that DJI, wasn't considered for this operation. Recent concerns over Beijing's uses of the data potentially collected by DJI's drones has the DoD worried about what sensitive battlefield data may get back to China. Last week, the DHS even issued a warning that the DJI fleet holds a potential security risk, and the concerns have now been heightened by other instances of potential corporate espionage by foreign companies. While there has been no evidence of spying through DJI drones by China, the DHS has made clear their concerns.
On top of DHS warning, President Trump signed an executive order last week preventing US companies from using telecommunications equipment provided by the Chinese owned Huawei firm. This is just the latest in a growing trade war between China and the US.
Parrot has a fantastic opportunity on the table to turn their focus to the public sector. They've been in the market since the early 2010's as a player for consumer based drones. The ANAFI is one of the company's newest additions to its fleet. Now with the ANAFI's new thermal capabilities its easy to see why it may be a check in every box the Army has requested.
This undertaking also has allowed other US based companies to shine and given them a potential foot back into the door in the same DJI dominated field. Skydio, Altavian, Teal Drones, Vantage Robotics, and Lumenier all placed for this initial information request. Whoever the Army and DoD choose to push forward the UAS tech of the future, it will be an exciting ride for one of 5 US companies, or the old US Ally in France.
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