How far are we from having industrial drones that will do our heavy work for us?
If you’d ask today’s guest on the Drone Radio Show, he’d say it’s already here. Bob Dalhstrom is CEO and Founder of Appelix, an company that serves industrial workplaces that are doing dangerous dirty jobs. His company has developed a prototype of an semi-autonomous drone for industrial painting applications. In this episode of the Drone Radio Show, Bob talk about Appelix, his Worker Bee Industrial Drone and the opportunities afforded through robotics.
In This Episode
[01:14] Introduction to Bob Dahlstron. Bob is the CEO of Apellix, a company that strives to improve industrial workplaces that are doing dangerous and dirty jobs. Apellix is a start-up company that has produced a pre-production robotic drone that can paint large industrial surfaces. The drone, Worker Bee industrial drone, is comprised of four components – Base Station, which has the computer and the material; Umbilical cord and tethering system; the Drone and fourth, the software, which ties everything together.
[02:23] The Inspiration. Bob was inspired to start Apellix about 18 months when he was painting his house and wondered if a drone could do it easier and safer.
[04:04] The Prototypes. There have been four prototypes of the Worker Bee industrial drone to date. Bob discusses the progression of these prototypes.
[05:29] Challenges. The movement of the air from the propellers around the drone was seen as a potential challenge that had to be overcome. In addition, each iteration of the drone brought a need for changes in hardware and software.
[07:00] Operation. The system is being designed so one person can operate it with the software making many of the decisions. With sensors, the Worker Bee will be able to monitor several factors, like weather, wind, obstacles and others and respond to those conditions when applying paint, or shutting down if the conditions are too severe.
[08:35]Applications. In addition to painting, Bob sees applications like de-icing, coating electrical transmission towers, bridges or dams, and window washing skyscrapers as something that the Worker Bee industrial drone will be able to do in the future.
[12:13] System Configuration and Functionality. The power supply and material are separate from the drone. The current prototype can travel up to 3 stories.
[13:05] Benefits. Bob talks about the safety and efficiency benefits of transitioning to industrial drones.
[14:47] Knowledge Transfer Implications. The Worker Bee will replace the painter, and the painter will need to learn new skills to operate the drone. Much like the evolution of automobile mechanics, the profession may evolve into higher quality and higher paying jobs for those who make the transition. This can also translate into greater reliability in the products produced.
[16:32] A Drone or Not-a-Drone. On one hand the Worker Bee is a drone and subject to FAA Regulations. On the other hand, only one of four components is a drone, which is tethered, thus classifying the Worker Bee as an industrial robot. Bob talks about the implications of how the product is classified. For the record, Bob sees Apellix as a safety company
[18:08] Personal Rewards. Bob discusses some of the personal rewards of creating Apellix and developing the Worker Bee industrial drone. The most rewarding part is creating something that could become a legacy and helps to make the world a better place
[19:32] Current Status. The current version of the industrial drone prototype has 3,000 PSI airless paint spray system that can do up to three stories. The company is about 80% of the way done with the software that makes it autonomous and “intelligent”. The software will enable the drone to automatically paint a predesigned pattern and compensate for conditions of the environment. Bob discusses the software in a little more depth.
[23:32] Next Steps. For Apellix, the next steps are to find a company that has a need and would be interested in development of a solution using the Worker Bee technology. Several ideas have emerged, like de-icing or coating large ships, which makes them travel with less resistance through the water.
[27:27} Market Size. According to Bob, the industrial painting and coating market is a $127 billion annual business. The rule of thumb is the paint/coatings represent ¼ of the total cost, so the entire market is huge. And that’s just the industrial market. In the future, users will be able to go Home Depot and rent their own version of the Worker Bee to paint their own house.
[29:33] Final Comments. Bob closes by discussing how much fun it is to build a new company and the how autonomous drones will really change the future.
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