EYE ON INNOVATION: From Phones to Drones with Motorola’s ‘Flying Robots’

In 1973, Motorola demonstrated a prototype of the world’s first portable cellular telephone. By 2004, the company commemorated manufacturing its 30-millionth cell phone.

These days, Chicago-based (Schaumburg) Motorola Solutions, the direct successor to Motorola, Inc., is focusing its business on meeting a growing demand from law enforcement, military and other governmental agencies for high-tech intelligence and data-gathering tools. One prime example: Motorola is getting into the drone biz.

USA Today recently reported that Motorola is partnering with Danvers, Mass.-based CyPhy Works, a developer of tethered drones. These are drones that use a “microfilament tether,” allowing them to be powered through a generator or another power source on the ground and to stay in the air indefinitely.

“We think (our technology) makes (our drone) much more useful for (emergency) first responders because…it can just go up and stay on station and provide valuable information,” Bruce Mueller, Motorola Solutions’ director of wireless research, says in the USA Today story.

Not surprisingly, CyPhy Works’ Founder, Helen Greiner, who was a co-founder of iRobot, which designs and builds robots such as the vacuum-cleaning Roomba, is effusive about the product. “The opportunity to offer flying robots (drones)…to the public safety and commercial sectors for imaging, mapping, monitoring and other applications is truly exciting. Our robust platform is specifically designed for field operations in rough real-world conditions.”

For example, as the Boston Business Journal explained, these tethered drones could be used at the scene of a burning building or some other disaster that just happened or a large festival or event in a city, offering a quick and cost-effective way to get needed eyes in the sky.

The drones offer “no-pilot” hardware systems, autopilot and control software, uninterrupted high-definition and infrared imaging, laser measurement sensors, and the aforementioned microfilament technology.

No price has been set for the product. Motorola expects a “small number” of these drones could be flying — pending Federal Aviation Administration approval — later this year.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at innovative technology and products that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.

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