Founded around four years ago, Evolve Dynamics is a UK-based drone manufacturer focused on designing and making drones for the commercial market.
It has more recently focused its attention on what emergency service providers need in a drone and, for its latest release, got feedback from police forces for just what is necessary.
Speaking exclusively to Commercial Drone Professional, founder Mike Dewhirst explained how he found large buttons and joysticks, a tether capability and not having a touch screen as important to police forces around the UK.
He elaborates: “A lot of the features have come from feature requests. For example, because they operate at night quite a lot, it’ll be really handy to have the remote operate with back lighting so all the labels on it and all of the buttons are all back lit. Also, the fact that they need to operate things in gloves which is why we didn’t go for a touch screen controller and everything is operated with joy sticks and buttons. We worked closely on some of the features with Gwent police in Wales”
“We have had feedback from some people saying, well, we just want something really easy, we don’t want joysticks, we just want a tablet and we are actually bringing out a tablet controller as well. But, what we have found is for most, especially if operating in adverse weather conditions, it is difficult to operate a touch screen,” he continued.
The company was also keen to highlight how its in-house tethering system can change the game for organisations looking at long-term important flight missions.
He explains: “We have done the main and initial BETA prototype and it is now just about turning it into a product which is robust, easy to use and there’s a lot of testing to go with that. It is going to be quite a unique system, it will be very compact, fit in a small backpack and connect either to a vehicle or to a petrol generator and then you would retrofit without needing any major modifications to the SkyMantis as is.”
The Evolve founder adds: “You just swap the battery for a special tether battery and then you can be up in the air for up to 24 hours at a height of 100m and also you wouldn’t need a full reel out either. Some tethering systems require that you reel out fully but we do not. So, you can go up to 30m quite happily for the duration of your flight and then there is automatic reel out and in for whatever altitude is needed. We can also run data over the line and fly without radio.”
The company also feels having a detachable tether cable is paramount for emergency service missions in giving the team flexibility in their work if needed.
Dewhirst comments: “We have incorporated a mid-air drop mechanism so from the remote, you can trigger a cable drop and then carry on flying for another half an hour. So you could have been up in the air for 15-18 hours and a situation could unfold where you need to pursue something. You could then drop the cable and go after the target for another half an hour.”
Evolve Dynamics’ most recent release is the SkyMantis, a drone it sees that can really add benefit to a number of organisations.
Discussing how the new drone has evolved from the first aircraft the company released – a 12 motor Dodeca heavy lift unit, Mike Dewhirst says: “there were a few developments which we were able to transfer over. We developed a rapid battery swap mechanism so that came across quite nicely as is.”
Adding: “The folding mechanisms we did quite differently, the initial aircraft we had was quite big, it was all up weight of 25kg with a payload of 10 and a flight time of around 30 minutes and everything sort of folded down along vertical axis whereas the new aircraft, the SkyMantis, everything folds laterally so it is basically like a flat pancake. Autopilot is the same as was on the Dodeca but most other components we had to develop from scratch.”
The drone is a result of a lot of research into various general UAV areas, big drones, small drones and medium drones.
The company outlined how everybody seemed to want something reasonably small, under 7kg with 1hr flight time and dual cameras, thermal and long zoom, so that is what it delivered.
Dewhirst went on to say how he feels the UK manufacturing is a key aspect to the business.
“Especially for UK customers, both from a logistics and security point of view we are a UK headquartered and UK operational company. We do have some sub-contractors and some manufacturing partners based abroad but 80% of what we do is made and 100% of our assembly is done in the UK.”
He elaborates: “We have partners in terms of manufacturing the plastic parts and the panel on the RC is made in the UK by a helicopter panel and defence engineering company. The bags are made in the UK by a bags and cases company also delivering solutions to the MoD. Even some of the carbon fibre, so 80% of the components in the UK and all assembly and R&D is done here locally.
“So, for a lot of the police forces based up and down the country, worst case is a several hour drive or next day or same day courier for any repairs or any support queries and for initial training and initial support it is very easy.”
As well as instant success in the emergency services sector, the Guildford-based firm has also seen commercial opportunities elsewhere.
“Commercial has been really strong as well. Inspection has been good because of the long zoom and all weather capability including 50 mph winds – if you need to inspect infrastructure, power lines, turbines or solar panels etc in less than ideal weather conditins, it is really good for that.”
The success has meant Evolve Dynamics is actively looking to expand into new premises around five times the size of what it currently has as well as hiring staff rapidly.
CDP reported on this earlier this month, read the full report here: