The real unsung highlight of re:Mars every year is the dozen startups and researchers showcasing their products at the show. There are always a few cool projects that have managed to slip past our radar so far. Los Angeles-based Airrow has taken the plunge with a smart product offering.
The startup is making a device designed to automatically remove and replace drone batteries and payloads. It works similar to a CNC machine or 3D printer, with a gantry that moves along the X and Y axes to bring the battery from the charger to the drone and vice versa.
The process is currently manual, requiring a human to swap and replace. This is only slightly inconvenient one on one, but can become a major problem when scaling up, as, for example, in the case of drone food delivery programs.
The system is still in its infancy. The team was showcasing battery swaps at the event and are currently working on extending the process to payloads. Currently, a trade takes a full two minutes, start to finish, but Airrow is working to keep it down to around 30 seconds. One thing at a time for a small team that currently has five employees. Growing the workforce is a big part of the company’s plans as it seeks to boost its next round, adding to the $350,000 pre-seed it has picked up so far.
In addition to delivery applications, military use is a key potential customer here. After all, they need drones and can afford to invest in technological solutions. Founder and CEO Menachem Fehler tells me the company has so far been in talks with Navy SEALs about potential deployments, which could help keep the drones constantly in the air. Airrow has also spoken with numerous law enforcement organizations.
The solution is not cheap. The startup is currently looking at a price tag between $80,000 and $100,000 for a bundle that also includes a drone.
“At this point, we’re still figuring out what the best approach is, but we want to provide the end-to-end solution,” Fehler told TechCrunch. The company will also customize the system to work with different drones to meet a customer’s specific needs.