In RCAF Today 2019, we examine personnel retention, fighter procurement, future aircrew training and more!
SkyX founder and CEO Didi Horn spent nearly a decade in the Israeli Air Force, most of it as a drone pilot and part of it flying the Heron TP, the world’s largest and arguably most advanced unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
UAV technology inspired him, because it seemed to have infinite applications.
“It’s only a matter of really [expressing] the need, the requirement, or what problems you are trying to solve,” he said in an interview with Skies.
“Then basically [you can] develop or design a drone that will meet that.”
While military UAV technology seemed to be at or near its peak, Horn believed the civilian market was falling short of its potential.
He saw an opportunity to raise the bar, and with this in mind he left the air force in 2014, creating SkyX about a year later in the Toronto suburb of Markham.
“I’m not intending to build technology just for the purpose of technology,” he said. “I want to build technology that will solve problems that exist out there and currently have no answer.”
SkyX launched its first product, the SkyOne electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) drone, earlier this year and it has attracted heaps of attention, including letters of intent from companies in seven countries around the world.
SkyX has been in talks with dozens of other companies over the past month, said Horn, and in 2019 it plans to launch SkyTwo, another eVTOL drone that roughly doubles the specifications of SkyOne.
“When we announced SkyOne, it was far ahead of any other competition out there,” he said.
“Nobody spoke back then on a fixed-wing VTOL that will fly for long range. We think companies are starting to understand the concept to some degree.”
SkyTwo is slated for release in the first or second quarter of 2019, if certain target markets change regulations to allow drones that fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
“We need to see that the market is ready for it,” said Horn.
SkyTwo is projected to fly up to 180 kilometres on a single charge, improving on SkyOne’s 100-kilometre range. Both UAVs are monitored remotely from control centres that can be thousands of kilometres away, making BVLOS regulations essential.
Another milestone for SkyX will be its first-ever appearance at the Farnborough Airshow later this month, part of a Canadian pavilion that will showcase some of the country’s best aviation technology.
“It’s about time that we … show that the next big thing in aviation will come from drones,” said Horn. “Not just for hobby purposes, but to really transition the world into a better place through the data they provide.”
Horn chose Canada as the home base of SkyX in part because of its progressive UAV regulations, and as the company acquires more contracts, he hopes to grow its group of 22 employees.
“I’ll be happy to expand within the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] or within Canada as much as we can,” he said.
SkyOne has found applications in the oil and gas market, monitoring pipelines that often stretch over thousands of kilometres in remote locations.
This is also a natural target market for the SkyTwo drone, but as he did years ago in the air force, Horn sees limitless applications for the technology.
“If I’m doing, on Monday, pipelines, I can do–on the same route–transmission lines or highway traffic control, or help the fire department to control fires around forestry,” he said.
“All of those are almost like an obvious application that can come along under the same drone.”
Horn uses an analogy from conventional aviation when he speaks about the future of SkyX. The company is like an aircraft “taxiing toward the takeoff point,” he said.
“We’re about to take off,” he added. “”I believe that what we’re seeing from SkyX now will be a whole new picture a year from now.”