The ability to broadcast live HD video captured from a drone has become a reality, thanks to a partnership between two Waterloo, Ont.-based companies — Dejero and Aeryon Labs.
"It will allow you to do things you've never been able to do before," said Bogdan Frusina, founder of Dejero and chief technology officer. "It is really opening up the skies, literally, to other things."
The two companies unveiled their new partnership on Tuesday at an unmanned drone conference in Atlanta.
Aeryon modified its SkyRanger drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle with a long range and flying time of up to 50 minutes, so that video shot on a drone-mounted camera is sent to a Dejero mobile transmitter on the ground.
"It transmits to the ground and then we're relaying that video from the ground through Dejero's standard hardware, back to the Internet and then in the case of a police application to a command post, in the case of a media application, back to the broadcast," said Dave Kroetsch, CEO of Aeryon.
Kroetsch says proprietary radio is used to transmit the signal from the drone to the Dejero, which in North America is a 900-MHz radio signal. The Dejero mobile transmitter can use 3G, 4G, LTE, wireless, microwave, ethernet and satellite connections to send a feed, and can transfer between connections so the signal isn't dropped.
"If somebody's covering a war in the Middle East, they might want to stay at a safer, standoff distance," said Kroetsch, who notes the drone can fly up to 10 kilometres away from the operator, though video quality will drop at that distance. "In the case where you're covering something that's closer at hand, you can have a higher video quality."
Kroetsch cautions that North American airspace regulations means the drones have to fly within line of sight on the operator, but overseas they can send the drone further away.
"The one nice thing with the Aeryon drone is that it allows you have this HD-30 zoom lens that allows you to be away from the crowd when there's a big a event, so there's no concern on safety for the people below," said Frusina.
The cost of the drone and purchasing a Dejero system means that broadcasters, law enforcement and military are the key markets for this new technology. The SkyRanger drone ranges from $50,000 to 65,000.
Aeryon drones are currently being used to help with relief efforts in Nepal, following a devastating earthquake that left thousands of people dead.