Michael Dowell, Owner
Drones started out initially as a hobby for a small group of enthusiasts. Now, drones that can take pictures and perform other simple tasks abound. However, those that can carry more than a few pounds and do more than one thing at a time are rare. In fact, very few are able to carry out high end tasks such as delivering significant volumes of supplies, conducting aerial inspections over extended ranges, carrying heavy sensors like ground penetrating radar, or conducting emergency evacuations.
Michael Dowell, owner of Mobile Recon Systems, and Tom Nickell, CEO, are changing that. Their crafts are designed to handle high payloads with multiple sensors and long flight times.
Mobile Recon Systems provides multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can carry payloads up to 200 pounds, and up to 10 devices on a unit, with models to carry up to 1,000 pounds in the works. The company’s UAVs are also equipped with power systems that allow them to fly for up to three hours. “Our three-part value proposition combining heavier payloads, functional flexibility, and longer flight times is unusual, if not unique,” says Nickell. And it opens up high value services in supplies delivery, utility and railroad line inspections, border and perimeter surveillance, first responders, search and rescue, and topographical surveys.
“Instead of a battalion of drones, each to address a single problem, we design single drones to address all needs simultaneously,” says Dowell. An added perk is that Mobile Recon Systems’ UAVs are built to comply with current FAA guidelines. And as those change, Mobile Recon will work with the FAA to continue acquiring their approval.
Current battery operated drones can’t stay aloft long. Flight times range from 6 minutes to a maximum of 25 minutes. But, with the use of light fuel generators, Mobile Recon Systems’ drones will fly for three hours or more. And with a full payload they will still fly for an hour or more. Over time, hydrogen fuel cell power systems will provide quiet, light, cleaner and greener power for extended flights.
Mobile Recon Systems has four models with varying platform sizes and payload capabilities. They range from the BlueHawk, the smallest model with a 19 pound payload, to the Dauntless, with a 200 pound payload. The Kittyhawk is the most popular model and has a payload of up to 55 pounds. It can carry anything a customer wants within FAA Part 107 regulation requirements. Each model comes as an octocopter, providing optimum safety and power. The KittyHawk and Dauntless also come as quadcopters, for customers who want exceptional functionality at a lower price. Plus, the UAVs fly in all types of weather, including rain and high winds. A key part of the company’s strategy is to tailor solutions specific to customer needs. For each specialized customer requirement, whether it is custom brackets and sensor payloads or different types of gimbals for cameras and payload sensors, it is a breeze for Mobile Recon Systems to incorporate necessary changes.
As a US-based company, Mobile Recon Systems is one of the few firms manufacturing multi-rotor UAVs in America as the Departments of Interior and Defense, and other US entities, are mandating breaking away from dependency on drone purchases from China.
Another growth opportunity is in BVLOS, flying beyond visual line of sight. Mobile Recon Systems’ long flight times are key to this market. And with safety test data and standard ASTM-certified parachute systems, they will be primed for supplying BVLOS needs. Currently, there are no drone types certified with the FAA or cleared for BVLOS flight, which are necessary for many use cases, including utility line inspections, agricultural uses, and searchand-rescue flights, Mobile Recon Systems is positioning to be among the first ones to get those approvals. “Our vision is to be at the forefront of providing UAVs that have longer flight times and that are certified to fly on the communication networks being set up for beyond visual line of sight,” says Nickell.