Auterion and maxon join forces on engines, avionics for drones
Software company Auterion partners with Swiss engine manufacturer Maxon
By Jim Magill, DRONELIFE Editor-in-Chief
Auterion, a software company that provides an ecosystem of drones, payloads and connected applications, partners with Swiss transmission and engine specialist maxon, best known for being the creator of precision systems enabling the helicopter. autonomous. Ingenuity and rover Perseverance to explore Mars.
The partnership is expected to create one of the most advanced and open-source avionics and engine integration ecosystems in the drone industry. It will combine the use of Auterion’s Skynode module and the best BLDC motors from maxon, such as the EC 87 flat drone motor.
In a joint statement, the companies said the goal of the partnership “is to leverage the expertise of both companies to make the operation, development and management of drone fleets easy for customers at considerable cost. reduced ”. The two companies said they would “explore long-term opportunities around propulsion systems and autopilot communication, data sharing and real-time monitoring.”
In an interview, Auterion co-founder Kevin Sartori said he was excited about the opportunities offered by the partnership with maxon.
“Motors and motor controllers are a very important part of a drone system. This is what keeps the drone in the air. And Maxon is the world leader in small motors for robotic applications, ”he said.
He added that for many of his US-based customers, it was important that Auterion did not partner with a China-based engine maker.
“Today, most engines are made in China. Maxon is a Swiss company; its manufacture is done in Switzerland ”, he declared.
Marco Sicher, business development engineer at maxon, said the partnership would give the electric motor maker the opportunity to leverage its drone propulsion system technology with Auterion’s open source software, which has become the standard for drone autopilot operations.
“We knew it’s not just done with motors and control electronics, it’s a whole propulsion system, an entire ecosystem,” he said.
Maxon has over six decades of experience building drive systems, controllers, transmissions and sensors. Its high-precision electric motors are used in a number of industries, from aviation to medicine and robotics, and are used in the manufacture of surgical power tools and humanoid robots.
However, what maxon is best known for around the world is the manufacturing technologies used in NASA’s missions to Mars. The company’s history with Mars missions dates back 20 years, when maxon developed electric motors for the first Mars rovers.
In the latest mission, maxon is playing its biggest role to date. A maxon motor is part of the mechanism responsible for changing the pitch of the propellers of the Ingenuity autonomous helicopter drone, the first vehicle to fly above the surface of another planet. In addition, maxon’s technology supports many laboratory activities that take place on board the Mars Perseverance rover.
Sicher said that maxon’s technology developed for missions to Mars would eventually be incorporated into its more terrestrial products, such as drone propulsion systems.
“I always compare it to Formula 1 in the automotive industry. It is the most advanced part of the industry, a niche, but the technology developed there a few years later is entering the normal auto industry, ”he said.
For its role in the new partnership, Auterion brings its expertise in the development of complete software stacks for drones. Company co-founder Lorenz Meier developed Pixhawk, an open-source autopilot hardware standard, and shaped the PX4 autopilot software, which has become the world’s most widely used open-source flight control system for aircraft. autonomous planes.
Auterion’s USA-made Skynode, which marks a next-generation breakthrough for the Pixhawk standard, supports all cell types and versatile payloads controlled via SDK, LTE cloud connectivity and apps and advanced on-board calculations.
“What Auterion does is build its product on open standards that anyone can use, and that everyone can contribute to because they don’t belong to anyone,” Sartori said.
“This partnership – in terms of integrating the engine and engine control with the autopilot – is done on open standards so that the integration is available to more companies, and it helps to increase the availability of components for the end user, ”he said.