This NYC Startup Makes Drones Smarter and Safer



SkySpecs’ technology is called Guardian Angel for a reason. It’s a hardware-enabled software system that helps drones avoid collisions automatically, making drone usage more accessible for industrial and consumer applications – and novices.

Hey, even drone pilots need a wingman! And someone to watch over them.

This team has more than fun and games in mind, of course. Think of all of the industries where people are required to climb high in the sky (without a net) just to see what and where the problem are, in say, power lines. A smart drone could do that, and that’s the idea. Or one of them.

Cofounder and CEO Danny Ellis gives us the ten thousand-foot view.

Tell us about the decision to apply for R/GA Accelerator and how has the experience been thus far?

SkySpecs is a team of seven drone-obsessed engineering students from the University of Michigan. We’ve got four masters, a PhD, and a ton of passion for aerial robotics. We’ve got the engineering talent to make drones smarter and safer, but we applied to the R/GA Accelerator because we’re missing a key piece: business knowledge. It’s less than four weeks in, and R/GA has already exceeded expectations – we’ve defined our customers and learned a ton about how to turn our passion and expertise into a profitable, sustainable business.

Tell us about your product.

We make a Guardian Angel for your drone. Using our proprietary hardware/software combination, we can retrofit any drone with the ability to sense its surroundings and avoid crashing. Our Guardian system only takes over when the drone is in danger, and it course corrects to avoid any obstacle.

How is it different?

It works! As far as we know, we’re the only people in the world to demo this technology in action.

What market are you attacking and how big is it?

Our beachhead is the $900 million commercial inspection market. Our product allows humans to remain on the ground while their UAS fly to get closer to their inspection targets to get the exact same pictures they get with ropes, ladders and people.


Danny Ellis

What is the business model?

For people who fly drones today – one-time hardware installation ($$$$) + monthly software subscription ($). We’ll provide updates to our software to improve flight safety.

For drone manufacturers – licensing deal. Partnering with a drone manufacturer to install our technology on each of their drones is a future goal.

We’ve been in the drone market for a little bit, but lack any semblance of eye and hand coordination. Can your solution help us?

Yes. It won’t make you a better pilot (DJI, AirWare and 3DR make excellent autopilots), but it will prevent your bad piloting skills from flying your drone into a wall, a tree, or if you’re an inspector, a wind turbine blade.

What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?

FIve beta-testers flying our technology (Hollywood aerial film crews and mid-size inspection firms)

FAA exemption to fly on U.S. wind farms

One large-scale inspection fleet rollout completed

Guardian V2 launched.

If you could be put in touch with one investor in the New York community who would it be and why?

Bob Young. We believe in his philosophy of openness, and as an investor in PrecisionHawk, we know he understands the drone market.

What is your take on the current scene in New York today?

Way different than Ann Arbor! We’ve had a blast meeting and learning from so many NYC entrepreneurs. There are tons more entrepreneurs doing so many different things. We’ve encountered lots of creative and designers, and angel and venture money is much easier to access here as well.

What are you looking forward to doing most in NYC during this upcoming winter?

Working our asses off, and enjoying the time with the other companies. We are taking advantage of the culture we can get here – music, Broadway, and sights – just like every other tourist who comes here.



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