AiThority Interview with Jason Braverman, Chief Technology Officer at SkyX Systems Corp.
Could you tell us about your interaction with the new-age technologies like Cloud Computing, Biometrics, Drones, AI, Machine Learning and Mobile Applications?
Well, I started in technology at a very early age. In those early days of Computing, we’re talking 1978 here, the dream was to have systems that could talk, see, and hear. Nobody could imagine how we would get there, and the thinking at the time was that nobody would ever need more than 128kb of RAM for anything.
One of the first AI applications was ELIZA, and it was very rudimentary. Even the venerable Commodore 64 has its SAM application, which allowed your computer to “speak” to you. These and others were the beginnings of a long road to make our dreams a reality.
Flash forward to 2008 and Google is master of the Search Wars, and has now embarked on changing the way people use their mobile devices. Apple had already released its iPhone and the world was getting used to the new slate form factor. The real change came when HTC manufactured a phone for Sprint with a front-facing camera. This was a game-changer for me. Google bought Android, and now there was a 4G phone with a front-facing camera. In a moment of inspiration (always at 1 am), I started porting OpenCV to Android and after some work and a lot of help from the Intel people, I managed to get it working on my HTC EVO 4G phone. Within a few days, I had a working facial recognition application that unlocked my phone. I published this on YouTube, and people went a bit crazy. I even got a call from Samsung to meet with them in San Jose and demo the concept. At the same time, I was researching ways to use this new capability. I wanted a phone that could be “user aware”, so that anyone who held it could benefit from personal settings, thus making the phone more like a dummy terminal. In order to achieve this, vast amounts of storage and mission-critical reliability would be needed.
At this still early stage of Cloud Computing, and AWS just getting started, we developed elastic models based on SOLR, ultimately moving to Cassandra. I ultimately ended up co-authoring the IEEE 2410-2015 Biometric Open Protocol Standard, which has since gone through many iterations. Today’s Cloud Computing systems are fantastically more advanced, and my personal favorite is a Kubernetes, MongoDB/Node.js setup, however, it really depends on what you are trying to achieve. My involvement with drones did not happen until 2016, but my passion for aviation also began as a child and through my education, with degrees in Aviation Science and Engineering.
How did you start in the Emerging Technology space? What galvanized you to start at SkyX?
My previous company, which I co-founded VeridiumID, had shifted its business goals and was no longer doing research and development, as a result, I left the company in 2016 and was looking for another CTO/CIO role where I could innovate and develop something truly exciting. I ran into Didi Horn, CEO of SkyX, before this, quite by accident in fact, and it was six months later in my job searches that I noticed SkyX was looking for a CTO. We met, I explained my vision and immediately understood Didi’s vision, and I knew I could make a difference. More than that, I saw SkyX as a vehicle that could truly do some exciting things in the commercial drone space. We started working together immediately after that meeting and here we are today.
Which startup story in drone and related UAVs influenced you the most? What lessons would you like to share with our readers?
I would say it has to be SkyX. Of course, I am biased. There are many startups working in UAVs, and some are very well funded. However, that bubble is bursting, and the true leaders will be the ones that last, with a technology that is proven and can actually make a difference.
SkyX is like a Unicorn. I say that because our Engineering team comes from the best of the best. I am talking about Technion, McGill, University of Toronto, Israeli Air Force. We literally have decades more experience than most teams. We have also met every milestone ahead of time, building a wide range of software and hardware systems internally… a very complex thing to do.
Currently, SkyX is the only long-range commercial drone system with a truly autonomous approach. Without human intervention, we can land an aircraft with a 2.5m wingspan in our xStation, offload the data it accumulated on its 65-mile flight, recharge and prepare for launch again. This sophisticated drone-in-a-box system allows us to extend the range of the vehicle so we can survey infrastructure in remote areas and spread out over vast distances. Today we are able to easily cover 65 miles in a single charge. However, the next generation system we’re developing will be 6-8x that range.
How do you see the global drone market scenario evolving? Which technologies have been the biggest disruptors in this industry?
Without question, the drone market is moving towards longer-range aircraft with more capable sensors. We are just beginning to see new sensor systems being miniaturized and offered for sale. The biggest challenge will be communications and a standard whereby drones can speak to each other, and control centers to alert them of their location and prevent collisions. Currently, the biggest hurdle to growth is regulations and a lack of a communications standard which can define how drones identify themselves in the air to each other and operations centers.
How do you compare drone marketing in North America with that in Asia, particularly focusing on the US, Canada versus China and India?
The Asian drone market is mainly focused on developing drone systems that operate on RF at ranges of about 50-100km. Once the drone loses RF, it is programmed to return to its base or the last known good RF location. This means your coverage area is severely limited. Regulations tend to follow what the FAA dictates, and most countries are trying to figure out for themselves what they will allow or not allow. India has shown itself to be very interested in using drones, but BVLOS or Beyond Visual Line of Site flying on a regular basis in many places is still quite elusive.
What are your predictions on the future of drone-based security and surveillance in 2019-2024? How can business owners and government agencies safeguard against these challenges?
The market for using drones to provide surveillance coverage is only going to increase dramatically. The cost benefits and quick availability on location make it the go-to choice for many agencies. The bigger challenge will be how to deal with rogue drones that operate for malicious reasons. Microwave energy-based devices are being designed to provide a kill on command capability for agencies needing to prevent unauthorized drone usage over certain areas, however, this could potentially impact drones being used for good. Ultimately, I feel that drones wanting to operate in the consumer/urban airspace will need some sort of communications systems, that blends ADS-B with Cellular, so that it would be extremely hard, if not impossible, to clone a drone, and this would allow for licensed operations with knowledge of exactly who’s who, and where they are. This is just one idea of course, but registration only works if there is some way of actually tracking the aircraft.
What is your opinion on “Weaponization of drone engineering”? How do you promote your ideas on global socio-economy platforms?
Weaponization of drones is already happening. Warfare, as we know will change within 10 years, with swarms of drones being capable of overrunning normal ground forces, and aerial drones preventing damage to other manned aerial systems, providing a “shield” of sorts, which missiles cannot penetrate. Ultimately, this is just another evolution, and we will see drones in the air, ground and undersea taking over more and more military operations. The possible good outcome of this is that it will likely cause fewer deaths, as wars are fought mostly with unmanned assets against each other, or, countries will be less likely to attempt war if they know the onslaught of 100,000 drones would be the outcome. Like MAD from the 60’s…only without nuclear weapons.
What drone (other emerging technology) start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
I closely watch the drone space for new developments. I am particularly interested in concepts that get away from the standard 4+1 VTOL configuration. I like what Percepto is working on, however, my main focus is really battery tech.
What technologies within your industry are you interested in?
Standards and regulations, but from a technology perspective. I am really interested in emerging power sources which can provide better endurance and time on target.
Which sci-fi/ Superhero character are you most profoundly influenced with?
I’d have to say, Iron Man. While I am definitely a big fan of Darth Vader, I love Iron Man AKA Tony Stark, because he is the ultimate innovative hacker. The idea of fabricating new technology on a whim, and solving real problems to me is the pinnacle of achievement.
As a tech leader, what industries you think would be fastest to adopting AI in drone engineering with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for these technology markets?
AI will certainly make its presence most felt in the area of “Drone Awareness”. The ability for one drone from one company to recognize another drone from another company and be able to operate in tandem or avoid each other is a requirement if we are to see drones populating our urban environments as we see in Hollywood. This same AI will power autonomous cars and other vehicles. It will take a pervasive and saturated communications network in order to achieve this, but that will come.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Think before you act. Often times people are too quick to give an answer or start a project. Think before you act. Once you have properly formulated a plan, only then can you start working on something. The time savings will be well worth it. For me, I block at least 30min per day for “Time to Think” and I use that time, without distraction to seriously focus on whatever key concept or project that I want to embark on.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
ELON MUSK. I would love to get feedback from Elon and hear how he feels about the vision we are developing at SkyX. In the past, I have given lectures where I stated: “SpaceX might own space, but SkyX owns the Sky”
Thank you, Jason! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Jason is a strategically focused technology visionary offering proven success in planning, designing, building, and innovating next-generation technologies. With degrees in Computer Science, Aviation Science and Aerospace Engineering, Jason specializes in resolving complex technical challenges during enterprise systems integrations.
A serial entrepreneur, Jason is highly effective serving as an organizational bridge between business and technical organization for problem-solving and has brought numerous start-ups to successful standing and exits – the latest being Veridium, a world leader in mobile biometric technologies. Jason brings more than 25 years of active experience in both startup and large enterprise management to the SkyX team.
The SkyX Unmanned Aircraft System is the ideal platform for capturing data – ranging from infrastructure inspection to detecting hydrocarbon leaks – with great accuracy and at a reduced cost relative to manned aircraft. Our UAS has been purpose-built for inspecting and monitoring over long distances, making it the perfect choice for pipelines or hydroelectric transmission lines.
Featuring Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) technology, we can deploy from literally anywhere within an exceedingly short time frame. We do not require special launchers or other equipment; we are up and transmitting data in moments. Our software can upload a complete flight plan to the UAS, allowing us to follow a specific route – and even stop along the way to gather more data at critical locations. We can track our SkyX UAS in real-time from our ground station and capture high-resolution videos and images (and other data). Depending on the mission, our UAS can carry Infrared (IR), Hyperspectral, CCD and other sensors.