This Blue UAS drone autopilot weighs just 16 grams

Blue UAS is among the hottest words in the drone industry right now. And with the kickoff of AUVSI XPONENTIAL 22 today comes a ton of big announcements relating to it. One that stands out extra big — even though it is actually super small physically. ModalAI today announced the availability of a Blue UAS autopilot called VOXL 2, which weighs in at just 16 grams. That’s less than the weight of a AA battery.

ModalAI is a San Diego-based drone manufacturer, and today it released the availability of its new autopilot, called the VOXL 2. The VOXL 2, which costs about $1,200, is super small and pretty smart too, powered by Qualcomm Flight’s RB5 5G platform. (ModalAI was founded by former Qualcomm Technologies employees.)

Photo courtesy of ModalAi

With its 16 gram weight, ModalAI claims that the VOXL 2 is the smallest single-board autopilot to date. Here are some of the standout features of this tiny new autopilot:

  • An 8-core CPU up to 15 TOPs
  • Seven image sensors
  • TDK IMUs and barometer
  • 5G connectivity
  • NDAA ’20 Section 848 compliant
  • Assembled in the USA

It’s designed for both indoor and outdoor drone flights, as well as other vision-based SLAM and AI robots. What’s especially unique about this autopilot is how primed it is for the latest demands in the drone industry, which lately including BVLOS flight support, obstacle avoidance and ability to fly in GPS-denied environments.

this blue uas drone autopilot weighs just 16 grams 1
The VOXL 2 autopilot next to a quarter, for size comparison. Photo courtesy of ModalAI.

What’s the big deal about Blue UAS?

A big theme of AUVSI — and the broader drone industry — this year is Blue UAS. The Blue sUAS program is a government initiative that taps private drone makers to build drones that could be sold to the general public, but meet standards for use within the broader Department of Defense and Federal Government.

Companies are vying for a spot on the Blue UAS Cleared list, which names DoD-approved drones that are section 848 FY20 NDAA compliant, which means they have gone through a rigorous process to become validated as cyber-secure and safe to fly. Blue UAS partners are primarily American drone companies that were hand-selected to build “trusted” drone systems for the DoD and other U.S. government partners.

Currently, the DoD is supporting an initiative called Blue sUAS 2.0, which expands the variety and capabilities of DIU vetted drones to provide DoD users compliant, secure sUAS.  Each system in that program has undergone a cyber vulnerability assessment in accordance with the Risk Management Framework, is issued an associated Authority to Operate by DIU, and a FY20 Section 848 NDAA compliance check. 

The VOXL 2 is the outcome of the Blue sUAS 2.0 initiative, thus it is FY20 NDAA Section 848 compliant.

Not just for government use

While the DoD uses Blue UAS drone products, private companies are seeking them out too. For some, it’s because they might want to land government contracts. But for others, it demonstrates that the drone meets certain higher standards.

While ModalAI said the DoD is a major partner, it has more than a dozen partners outside of that which are already integrating VOXL 2 in their newest drone and robot fleets.  Among the most notable is Switzerland-based drone software platform Auterion.

Auterion, which promotes open-source drone work and promotes a mission of building “a unified standard that will allow for interoperability between enterprise drones and services” has already made Auterion OS available on VOXL 2, which could be good news for developers looking to build enterprise-minded solutions using open standards. Additionally, the PX4 Autopilot runs natively on the QRB5165 at the heart of the VOXL 2.

ModalAI’s VOXL 2 $1,199.99, it can be purchased directly from ModalAI’s website.

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