Taser Maker Axon Acquires Indoor Tactical Drone Company Sky-Hero
BY Zacc Dukowitz23 August 2023
Axon, makers of the taser and other tools for law enforcement, recently acquired a drone company called Sky-Hero.
Sky-Hero is based in Belgium. The company is known for making tactical quadcopters designed to support military and law enforcement work.
Sky-Hero makes four different types of these drones, as well as payloads designed to support tactical work, including a sound distraction system and a light distraction system that can be attached to drones or ground-based robots.
Today, the first line of response in public safety largely relies on human interaction, which poses threats in unknown circumstances. Uncrewed vehicles introduce a first line of situational awareness, and, in some cases, communication that can start the de-escalation process before requiring face-to-face human interactions where threats are present.
– Axon Statement (see the full statement)
Sky-Hero’s flagship drone is the LOKI Mk2US. Notably, the LOKI is compliant with the NDAA, making it attractive to police departments looking to avoid buying drones from companies that use components made in a “covered foreign country” like China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea.
However, it’s worth noting that NDAA compliance isn’t something that’s given, like Blue UAS status. (Blue UAS refers to drones approved by the Pentagon for government use.) Instead, a drone is considered NDAA-compliant if it doesn’t contain components made by a covered foreign country—but it’s not something the drone company applies for or is granted, just a self-reported fact about how the drone is made.
Axon Air and DroneSense—Tools Built for Law Enforcement
Axon has been interested in the drone industry for a while now.
Back in 2021, Axon launched a partnership with Skydio. It also briefly toyed with creating a drone taser around that time (until the idea led to strong backlash, and was dropped).
Axon is so committed to drones that it actually has an entire division called Axon Air, which is devoted to helping public safety agencies use drones.
Through Axon Air, police departments can get full, end-to-end solutions for their unique needs. This includes the drones themselves, as well as the software to operate them.
That software is provided by a third party, called DroneSense—the full tag for Axon Air is actually “Axon Air powered by DroneSense.”
Credit: Axon Air
DroneSense makes software for piloting, program management, and operations, acting as both a drone ops management platform and a remote piloting platform that enables police departments to launch Drone as First Responder (DFR) programs.
What is a DFR program? A DFR is a program in which drones are automatically deployed to the location of 911 calls, arriving before officers get there and providing tactical awareness so law enforcement can better understand the situation in advance, helping officers track fleeing suspects, assess unfolding situations, and avoid being ambushed. Learn more about DFR programs in our in-depth guide.
What Does This Mean for Axon’s Partnership with Skydio?
Before the acquisition of Sky-Hero, Axon has relied on partners to provide the drones it sells to public safety agencies, with Skydio being one of its biggest U.S. partners. But now it will be able to sell its own drones straight to police departments.
That being said, we don’t expect anything to change in Axon’s partnership with Skydio.
Sky-Hero’s drones have covered ducts, similar to what you see on a cinewhoop, and are clearly made for indoor tactical scenarios. Skydio’s drones, on the other hand, are made primarily for flying outdoors for reconnaissance, especially when you want a drone that doesn’t need much attention from the pilot to fly.
For Skydio’s drones, some top use cases include following a fleeing suspect using subject tracking, sweeping a wreck or fire looking for victims, or tracking yourself as you engage in a chase to get extra tactical awareness. These are all scenarios where Skydio’s autonomy will be preferred over the indoor tactical capabilities of Sky-Hero’s drones.
And conversely, some top use cases for Sky-Hero’s drones will be indoor situations, such as hostage negotiations or dealing with active shooters, in which you want a drone made to fly in tight, confined spaces that’s equipped with the ability to generate 3D position hold without GPS.
About the Sky-Hero LOKI Mk2US
The Sky-Hero LOKI Mk2US is similar to Brinc’s LEMUR drone, in that it’s a small, rugged quadcopter designed to help law enforcement primarily do two things for indoor situations:
- Get visual data on what’s happening inside.
- Communicate with others remotely from outside, including hostages and those holding hostages.
The LOKI has a Day-Night + IR sensor camera, allowing you to fly in extremely low light conditions, and even in complete darkness. And it’s equipped with the ability to fly without GPS, a key feature for any drone made for indoor operations, where WiFi signals can be unreliable. It can also hold its position in the air without GPS, allowing you to get reliable visual intelligence as the drone hovers in place.
Here is some additional information about the LOKI Mk2US:
- Impact Resistant. Body structure made of impact resistant polycarbonate, based on high-pressure mold injection process.
- Accurate Detection. Forward-facing ultra low light, day/night camera with 150° wide angle field of view, without fisheye.
- 3D Position Hold. GPS-like position hold using complex algorithms based on advanced computer vision.
- Field Proven. Deployed by 1000+ tactical teams worldwide on multiple fields of operations.
Knowing that Sky-Hero’s comprehensive system of products can play a role in this monumental effort to reduce gun-related deaths between police and the public by 50% in
– Yves Coppye, Founder of Sky-Hero
The Sky-Hero has some other features that make it useful for the field, including the ability to throw it in the air for takeoff and a precise assisted landing capability. To make it a useful tool for public safety agencies, it has smart modes like Floor (rover style) and Turtle (directional flip), allowing it to right itself if it falls upside down on the ground.