Xwing’s Superpilot Becomes FAA’s First ‘Standard’ UAS Certification Project

An Xwing Cessna equipped with the company’s Superpilot technology flies over California. Photo courtesy of Xwing.

SAN FRANCISCO—The autonomous aviation company Xwing has submitted a Project Specific Certification Plan (PSCP) to the FAA, becoming the first Standard Category large unmanned aerial system to receive official project designation. This marks the beginning of the process for approval of uncrewed commercial cargo operations in the national airspace.

Unlike other aviation projects that focus on augmenting piloted operations with autonomous technology or have Special Category certification, Xwing’s Superpilot technology integrates into existing type-certified aircraft to enable unmanned operations that work within the existing air traffic control system. Superpilot harnesses advanced AI and machine learning technologies to become the world’s first fully autonomous, gate-to-gate flight technology.

The company’s PSCP submission is the result of years of collaboration between Xwing and FAA officials to develop a certification plan for UAS approval. With project designation, Xwing is now on a recognized path toward regulatory approval for unmanned commercial cargo flights. This process represents the first time the FAA has assigned resources to a UAS for a Standard Category airworthiness certificate. Although focused on air cargo operations, Superpilot will be benchmarked against the current aviation safety standards for passenger aircraft, among the highest standards of avionic safety.

“Xwing is leading the way for aviation automation with a pragmatic approach to compliance and safety,” said Earl Lawrence, the chief compliance and quality officer at Xwing. “Adherence to the existing regulatory framework, our operational expertise as an air carrier, and use of already certified aircraft, enables us to meet the high safety standards required in aviation today. With the ability to work transparently within the air traffic control system, Xwing’s technology has the potential to take safety to an even higher level.”

The company’s pragmatic approach to autonomous system development is accelerating the introduction of complete autonomy within air cargo. Upon certification, Xwing’s Superpilot system has the potential to improve flight operations by:

  • Making high-risk flight phases safer: Xwing is the first certification project to use AI and machine learning to improve the safety of taxi, takeoff and landing, the highest-risk phases of commercial aviation.
  • Increasing overall flight safety: Xwing’s automation of all phases of flight with “human on-the-loop” supervision improves safety by combining the ability to communicate in real-time with air traffic control and other aircraft with sensors that can continuously see in the dark, in all weather, and in sun glare.
  • Reducing operational costs: Without a pilot tied to a physical aircraft, it is possible to reduce pilot costs and fly the aircraft more often, yielding more ROI per aircraft.
  • Connecting more communities: Improving the economics of small aircraft operations and enabling flexible scheduling, cargo carriers can meet the needs of their rural and super-rural customers and offer more access to affordable express cargo options for local businesses.

The news arrives as airlines continue to struggle with pilot shortages, with United Airlines announcing it expects carriers will need 10,000 new pilots this year but only has 6,000 qualified candidates.

Simultaneously, e-commerce sales are set to top $6.3 trillion this year, increasing demand for regional transportation and delivery services. Together with its logistics partners, Xwing plans to bridge this gap in the market upon certification.

Upcoming Webinar Explores What Must be Done to Enter the Age of BVLOS

A drone equipped with uAvionix’s systems flies at the test site at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of uAvionix.

The unmanned systems industry is preparing for federal rulemaking so flights beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) will become the rule rather than the exception.

But how can industry and government safely achieve that outcome? And what technology is needed to routine BVLOS flights a reality?

UAvionix, based in Bigfork, Montana and Leesburg, Virginia, is working with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to answer those questions. The company brings its SkyLine command and control software and pingRID drone remote identification system to the Choctaw Nation’s expansive test range, which covers more than 44,000 acres in the southeastern part of the state.

Their partnership will be explored in an April 4 webinar, “Entering the Age of BVLOS,” which will featured Brit Wanick, the vice president of marketing for uAvionix, and Marc Hartman, aviation operations manager for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. It will be moderated by retired Maj. Gen. James Poss (USAF, retired), the CEO of ISR Ideas, and the founder and former executive director of the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE). You can register here https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2815947565166920288https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2815947565166920288

“The current regulatory environment keeps drones below a specific elevation and has a lengthy waiver process for flying them beyond the line of sight of a ground-based observer, “Wanick said, which is “not necessarily a scalable process.” The industry wants to carry standards of performance forward but not manage UAS separately from other aircraft.

That’s where uAvionix’s pingRID remote ID and SkyLink come into play. PingRID, launched at the end of February, is an attach-and-fly system that allows drone operators to be compliant with the FAA’s Part 89 remote ID standards, effectively a license plate for drones.

SkyLink is aimed at ensuring steady, reliable communications for unmanned aircraft, a critical component of BVLOS capability. It allows a drone to maintain constant contact using whatever network is available, whether it is C Band, LTE, ISM or satellite networks, which the company has named “path diversity.”

The system is much faster than a human being and capable of seamlessly switching its communications path, automating the handoffs between the networks. It also has to do this at scale, as “there are thousands [of drones] that will be in the sky at one time,” each vying for the same signals. It also has to accommodate the various spectrum used by the networks, which it calls “frequency diversity.”

Poss said the FAA has for years been working to set up demonstration programs for BVLOS-enabling technologies, including the Integration Pilot Program, which gave way to the current Beyond series of demonstrations.

The Choctaw Nation is a partner in that, and uAvionix has set up its SkyLink systems at the nation’s test site.

Hartman said the site boasts a ground-based S-Band radar, capable of detecting aircraft out to 18 nautical miles, as well as a series of ground-based ADS-B receivers. The nation, is the only tribal government to be part of the IPP program and the Beyond program. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s waiver allows BVLOS flights using the uAvionix SkyLine system, ADS-B data and data from its radar.

The entire area of operations is controlled by the tribal government and can be a virtual “splashdown zone” if there are any issues. “That’s one of the huge benefits of our range, is that we can control access and fly,” Hartman said.

Learn more by registering for this free webinar to take place on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 at 1:00 PM EDT – 2:30 PM EDT https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2815947565166920288https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2815947565166920288.

Can Drones Test AI Designed for Spacecraft? Space Park Leicester’s Drone Lab

AI for spacecraftSpace Park Leicester Launches Drone Equipped with AI for Spacecraft

by DRONELIFE Staff Writer Ian M. Crosby

Space Park Leicester has announced the successful launch of a drone making use of revolutionary AI equipment for use in spacecraft.  The equipment leverages an innovative design approach to enable AI algorithms to be dramatically reduced in size. The solution is suitable for embedded computing devices utilized in satellites, drones, autonomous driving and robotics, and has applications in cloud detection, disaster, flood, crop, and pollution monitoring alongside situational awareness, spacecraft anomaly detection and maritime surveillance.

Space Park Leicester’s Drone Lab is fully operational due to joint investment from the University of Leicester, Space Park Leicester, the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) and the National Environment Research Council (NERC), and is prepared to support further ground-breaking projects going forward.

With funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the project is led by Principal Investigator Professor Tanya Vladimirova from the University of Leicester’s School of Computing and Mathematical Science, with support from METEOR Principal Engineer Piyal Samara-Ratna and Space Park Leicester Software and Instrumentation Engineer Oliver Blake.

“The first flight of this project provided invaluable data to the development of a new high performance and lightweight framework for the use of artificial intelligence algorithms powered by high complexity neural networks, developed by Dr Tolga Turay, a member of my research team,” said Prof. Tanya Vladimirova.

“This initial flight will lay the foundation for future flights. Each mission and deployment is an opportunity to learn and develop our methods to make flying a drone of this size safe and more efficient,” said Piyal Samara-Ratna. “Using drones to test space-based sensor systems and ideas may help reduce costs and the development time associated with using manned flight testing. Manned aircraft costs thousands, requires booking weeks, if not months, in advance and if the weather is adverse on the day of the flight the data gathered from deployment may be impacted negatively, resulting in additional flights being required.”

“Drones provide a unique capability. They fill the gap between ground based and air-based deployments of equipment,” said Dr Steven Lloyd, Drone Laboratory Coordinator. “So long as we have permission from landowners, we can fly drones when the weather conditions allow, reducing the risk to project timelines from multiple missed deployments from manned aircraft. This deployment was the first of its kind for the Drone Lab at Space Park Leicester, with more flights planned soon.”

“The drone lab project, funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, is now fully operational and is ready to support more amazing projects in the future,” added Co-Investigator Dr Joshua D. Vande Hey from the University of Leicester’s School of Physics and Astronomy.

“Access to the drone laboratory and engineering capabilities at Space Park Leicester is a fantastic resource to further and maximise the impact of my research,” said project participant Viktoria Afxentiou, whose PhD is with Professor Tanya Vladimirova.

The Space Park Leicester engineering team acknowledge and thank Gareth Bustin and Sittles Flyers Lichfield Airfield for their support in the drone flight campaign.

Read more:

DJI Mini 3 Pro for Commercial Use (Explained)

The DJI Mini Pro is one of the most complete sub-250g drones equipped with high-end capabilities, making it efficient for many applications.

Besides the incredible attention the drone has gathered, some people are still unsure where to use their DJI Mini 3 Pro.

So, what are the commercial activities that the Mini 3 Pro can prove helpful?

The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a great drone for various commercial activities. Whether you are in the field of cinematography, building inspection, creation of captivating social media content, media coverage, or other profitable commercial activities, you can never go wrong with the Mini 3 Pro.

Please read on for a comprehensive understanding of the commercial activities that DJI Mini 3 Pro will be extremely helpful and why.

Most popular commercial activities for DJI Mini 3 Pro

The DJI Mini 3 is one of the most diverse, lightweight drones with high-end specs, rendering it effective in a wide range of commercial activities. 

You can never go wrong if you purchase a Mini 3 Pro drone for commercial purposes.

Here are some of the top commercial activities that you will find the DJI Mini 3 Pro quite rewarding.

1. Media Coverage

Since their invention, drones have proved extremely helpful to journalists. In the past, the coverage of some scenes required the use of helicopters, which proved extremely expensive for media houses.

Worse, helicopters could not access some points, which meant that such places were left unfilmed.

The DJI Mini 3 Pro is one of the best drones capable of providing an impeccable media coverage experience for both large and small media houses. There are several reasons for this, including the following;

  • First – The Mini 3 pro is a compact drone packed with high-end specs, making it easy to generate captivating content using the drone.

    The compact design renders it highly portable so that users don’t have a problem moving with the drone from one point to another.

  • Secondly – The DJI Mini 3 Pro is equipped with a 1/1.3-inch CMOS image sensor, 48MP effective pixel, and 4k HDR video @ 60 FPS to guarantee quality footage.

    Additional Mini 3 Pro camera specifications include a gimbal tilt of 135-80, vertical shooting, and D-Cinelike Color mode.

  • Further – The DJI Mini 3 Pro has a long flight time to give you the ample time you need for efficient shooting.

    The standard batteries provide a maximum of 34-minute flight times, whereas the Plus intelligent flight battery can provide 47-minute flight times.

  • Lastly – The drone is generally easy to fly. You can go for DJI RC-N1 or DJI RC smart remote controller.

2. Social Media Shooting

Social media has become one of the largest platforms where people conduct business and share information.

If you are into social media for commercial purposes, ensuring that you provide captivating content for your audience is key to seeing you stand out from the rest.

The DJI Mini 3 Pro is equipped with numerous exciting features that will let you create amazing content for your social media audience. 

Here is why the DJI Mini 3 Pro will do incredibly well in providing you with an excellent social media content creation experience:

  • True vertical shooting lets you shoot compelling content for your mobile users. Moreover, vertical shooting has become a norm for social users, and to remain appealing to your audience, you must be able to provide what they need.
  • FocusTrack makes it easy for you to track and follow objects. If you are into mountain climbing and want to show your audience how you do it, you will find this intelligent feature worthwhile.
  • MasterShots capability lets you capture fun cinematic footage for your audience. Again, if you are first getting into the world of drones, this feature will make it easy to master your flying skills.
  • Digital Zoom is also critical as it lets you stay at a safe distance while capturing footage that might interest your audience.
  • Hyperlapse lets you capture beautiful rolling clouds, which may help induce a new aspect of content creation for your social media audience.

3. Building Inspection

Nowadays, real estate enthusiasts have embraced drones to conduct building inspections effectively.

Drones never disappoint when it comes to building inspection because they can access places people cannot access due to safety concerns.

One reason the DJI Mini 3 Pro is a superb drone for conducting building inspection is that it’s nimble, with a lightweight body design. 

Hence, with the Mini 3 Pro, you will access various hard-to-reach points.

Additionally, several other features of the DJI Mini 3 Pro make it a perfect choice for building inspection. They include the following:

  • The OcuSync 3.0 Video Transmission lets you clearly review the property you are inspecting so that you can make a conclusive report.
  • The high-quality camera provides 4k authentic details, which is remarkably helpful in delivering the deep secret of the building under inspection.
  • Long flight time ensures you have plenty of time to capture the most meaningful details during your inspection period without worrying about your battery running out midway through the inspection.

4. Photography and Videography

The DJI Mini 3 Pro never disappoints when exploring the world of photography and videography.

Whether looking for an excellent drone for cinematography, wedding, events, promotional photography, or advertising, the DJI Mini 3 Pro can be your longtime partner.

The Mini 3 Pro has already stamped its authority in photography and videography thanks to its richness of helpful features.

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 Pro Camera Settings (Explained for Beginners)


When you get into cinematography, what determines whether you will succeed is the quality of the videos you will produce for your audience.

The videos that come from the Mini 3 Pro are top-notch.

Features such as D-Cinelike, 4k 60 FPS, and the f1.7 aperture work towards ensuring that you make exhilarating footage for your audience/clients.

Gimbal and Hover

The gimbal and hover are essential for producing impeccable footage as they help prevent blurred images and videos.

Excellent gimbal and hover capability let you shoot in any scene with excellent preciseness and consistency.

A gimbal provides superior camera stabilization to other technologies meant to play similar roles, including digital optical image stabilization.

Hence, you can never go wrong with the Mini 3 Pro’s 3-axis gimbal.

Flight Time and Range

Another capability that makes the Mini 3 Pro a drone of choice for videography and photography is its incredible flight time and range. 

The DJI Mini 3 Pro has a standard flight time of up to 34 minutes and a flight range of 6.2 miles (10km).

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 Pro Battery – All You Need to Know

The long flight time affords you enough time to work on your videos/photos to create transformative content for your audience. 

Also, a flight range of 6.2 miles is enough to let you access places inaccessible by foot.

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 Pro Range (Explained)

Obstacle Avoidance

DJI Mini 3 Pro has a tri-directional obstacle avoidance system that makes it ideal for shooting a wide range of places inaccessible by foot.

Further, obstacle avoidance prevents you from damaging your expensive drone.

Again, any drone with obstacle avoidance sensors is easy to fly because you are less likely to crash the drone against objects.

Also, you can comfortably fly your Mini 3 Pro in trees with minimal chances of damaging it.

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 Pro Obstacle Avoidance (Explained for Beginners)

Intelligent features

Lastly, the DJI Mini 3 Pro has many intelligent features designed to make the drone efficient for photography/ videography. 

The Mini 3 Pro’s intelligent features include:

  • MasterShots – lets you capture fun cinematic videos.
  • Hyperlapse – excellent for capturing rolling clouds to induce more beauty into your content.
  • Digital Zoom – enables you to maintain a safer distance as you shoot.
  • FocusTrack – Allows tracking objects with ease.

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 Pro Intelligent Flight Modes (Explained for Beginners)

5. Teaching Others to Fly

The DJI Mini 3 Pro drone is one of the easiest drones to fly. Besides the several commercial activities mentioned above, you can also use them to teach beginners to fly. 

People passionate about drones are always willing to pay to advance their piloting skills.

Since the Mini 3 Pro is equipped with a tri-directional obstacle sensing system with a long flight time, beginners will find it interesting to learn about flying, using this drone.

6. Surveying and Mapping

Construction, land development, and engineering companies actively use drones to make their work easy.

The DJI Mini 3 Pro’s quality camera and several other high-end specs make it easy to advance surveying, cartography, or mapping.

Mapping and surveying are lucrative ventures because businesses constantly look for accurate maps to advance their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Why is the DJI Mini 3 Pro Great for a Wide Range of Commercial Ventures?

The DJI Mini 3 Pro is effective in a wide range of commercial activities, and several explanations exist.

Excellent Wind Resistance

While the DJI Mini 3 Pro may not offer high wind resistance like most heavy high-end drones, it provides a maximum wind resistance of level 5 or 19-24 miles per hour (10.7 m/s).

This is enough to see the drone hover suitably in most windy conditions to deliver an excellent job.

Again, the Mini 3 Pro controls the gimbal flawlessly to ensure that you have stable footage that is less affected by wind.

High-Speed Quicker Transfer

If you are into cinematography, then you should be in a position to provide your audience with fresh content swiftly.

The DJI Mini 3 Pro makes it possible for swift and efficient content creation through High-Speed QuickTransfer. It offers fast transmission of videos and photos, depending on your wireless environment.

Long-Lasting Battery

The DJI Mini 3 Pro has a standard battery for 34 minutes of flight time.

Long flight time is essential in commercial activities as it provides enough time to use the drone to accomplish your commercial objectives.

Again, despite the long flight time, the Mini 3 Pro features a compact body that makes the drone easy to transport.

Tri-Sensing system

The obstacle avoidance provides more powerful visual sensing, rendering the drone easy to fly for both beginners and experienced pilots.

Flying the DJI Mini 3 Pro is safe thanks to its advanced obstacle avoidance capability.

Drones and High Resolution Lenses Protect Wildlife Around the World: Quantum Systems and Wilderness International in Peru
Drones and High Resolution Lenses Protect Wildlife Around the World: Quantum Systems and Wilderness International in Peru

drones and high resolution lensesDrones equipped with high resolution lenses are a powerful tool in the fight to protect wildlife around the world.  Here, Yasuo Baba of Sony Digital Imaging gives us the specifics of the project between Quantum-Systems and Wilderness International.

The following is a guest post by Yasuo Baba, Director, Digital Imaging and European Product Marketing, Sony Digital Imaging Europe.  DRONELIFE neither accepts nor receives payment for guest posts.

Protecting natural areas with drones and high-resolution lenses

Continue reading below or listen: 

Wildlife, natural spaces, and rainforests are integral to our planet. They are not simply beautiful spaces; behind the scenes, an ecosystem is busy absorbing carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen, and providing water, shelter and food. Crucially, the nature on earth is a vital element in fighting climate change and keeping the planet healthy.

Despite its inextricable link with the planet’s health, biodiversity across the globe is under threat. Species are rapidly declining, with the WWF reporting at least 10,000 becoming extinct every year. Added to this, deforestation continues to rage across our earth, and in 2019 alone, we lost 12.2 million hectares of tropical forest, according to the World Resources Institute.

Wildlife needs safeguarding, and with the technology we have today, methods of protection that were unimaginable just a few decades ago are now possible.

An aerial view

Rainforests are vast by nature: the Amazon Rainforest is home to 10% of all wildlife species. In the past, the sheer size of rainforests has posed difficulties for conservation teams – even with the introduction of manned aircraft, mapping the health of rainforests to ground-level precision couldn’t be done.

However, technological advancements now mean teams can monitor spaces remotely, with ease. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) offer a cost-effective solution to mapping extensive rainforest areas with a high level of accuracy while using significantly fewer emissions than a manned aircraft, further protecting the environment.

Key to the success of the UAV is its camera and lens selection. A wide-angle lens will capture as large an area as possible and to guarantee the drone can fly as high as it needs, the lens must also be lightweight and compact. Add to the mix an Extra-low Dispersion (ED) and Super ED glass you will ensure excellent colour quality, contrast and resolution.

With the right lens and camera onboard, the UAV captures images to a centimetre-level ground resolution, making mapping dense forest light work. And once all the images are collected, researchers can view accurate, geo-referenced data that is regularly kept up-to-date.

Harnessing data with LiDAR and Multispectral 

In addition to high-resolution lenses, UAVs equipped with LiDAR and multispectral cameras are also transforming how conservation teams protect wildlife. LiDAR, a technology that emits pulses of laser light, enables the drone to generate an accurate 3D image of the environment, allowing you to measure the height and biomass of trees and other plant life. Then data collected from the multispectral camera helps scientists to identify species.

drones and high resolution lenses

Rather than trekking into a rainforest, to isolated and sometimes dangerous locations, conservationists can answer crucial questions on biodiversity, all from the images captured by drones. Suppose something is growing at a slower rate than it should, or an invasive species is present, threatening the life of other plants. With up-to-date data available, organisations can identify it remotely and act on the info immediately. This way, potential problems are captured as quickly as possible and resolved before posing a threat to the area’s biodiversity.

Protecting tropical rainforests 

Quantum-Systems’ work with Wilderness International showcases precisely how important this technology is in protecting wildlife. Tasked with mapping tropical rainforests in Peru, Quantum Systems used its Trinity F90+ drone carrying either the RX1 or UMC, Sony RGB camera.

drones and high resolution lenses

Offering up to 42MP and achieving 5304 x 7952 pixels with a full-frame image sensor, the cameras, used alongside a 35mm lens, can capture 102m by 68m areas with centimetre ground resolution in just one image. The pictures are taken with an 80% overlap, and then post-flight photogrammetry creates a georeferenced ‘map’ of the protected site.

The image quality and skill of the drones allow Wilderness International to monitor five million square meters of endangered rainforest. So, without being present in every location at all times, through ground-resolution mapping, the team can still detect changes in the environment as though they were on site.

Wilderness International also uses the images captured to track which area is protected by which donation, creating a personable experience in which donors can see the real impact of the project.

With flights scheduled every two to three years, organisations can use comparative images to observe changes, such as areas of illegal deforestation and natural occurrences like the migration of a river. By sharing the data with local scientists and charities, the health of plants and wildlife can be further analysed by the correct expert – ultimately, safeguarding not just the protected area but also the future health of our planet.

Read more about drones for conservation and wildlife protection:

Yasuo Baba has over 20 years of experience in the digital imaging industry. He has been responsible for Sony Digital Imaging Business Solutions in Europe since 2018.

In 2018, Baba-San was appointed as Director of Marketing at Sony Digital Imaging Business Solutions. His aim is to grow the business and increase market share by focusing on professional photography and to establish Sony as the photographic brand of choice among professionals.

SD Cards for Skydio (All You Need to Know)
SD Cards for Skydio (All You Need to Know)

Like many other drones in the market, the Skydio drones come equipped with a great camera capable of capturing 4K video at 60 frames per second and a flight time of over 20 minutes. 

All of that data needs to be stored somewhere, and like most drones, that data is stored on an SD card onboard the drone. This article covers everything you need to know about SD cards for Skydio drones. 

Editor’s Choice

Drones are a blast to fly, and some are quite capable of reaching break-neck speeds and even performing acrobatic maneuvers. Most drones also have high-tech cameras that capture gorgeous footage and photos from their flights. All of that footage needs to be stored somewhere. 

An SD card, or more specifically, a microSD card, is where the data is stored for the Skydio drone. Most drones use a combination of built-in storage and a microSD card to record all the data captured. Skydio drones do not have internal storage, so a microSD card is required to fly the drone.

The data recorded includes both the photos and video footage captured during a flight and the flight logs. Think of your drone as having a little black box, like manned aircraft have, that captures all the performance data from the drone during flight. 

This data can identify issues or malfunctions a drone might experience. It can also highlight battery efficiency, wind resistance factors, speed of each of the rotors spinning, and a load of other information helpful to pilots. 

DJI drones send this information to internal storage. The data can then be transferred online to sites like AirData and translated into maps, charts, graphs, or sent to DJI in the case of an issue for them to determine the root cause.

Where is the microSD card slot located on the Skydio drone? 

The SD card slot for the Skydio drone is located on its belly, where the battery is attached. The battery is attached magnetically to the bottom of the drone. It also acts as the landing gear for the drone, raising it off the ground enough for the propellers to clear. 

Here you’ll also find the tiny slot to insert the microSD card. It may take a moment to find, at least it did for me, and a few seconds of fumbling with it to properly seat it. 

The Skydio drone requires a UHS Speed Class 3 (U3) (or faster) microSD card to record 4k video at 60 frames per second. So, while any microSD card brand is compatible with your Skydio drone, it needs to meet those minimum technical requirements. 

A slower card would not be able to keep up with the data recording, so you would most likely end up with choppy footage or dropped video frames. 

Read more: SD Cards for DJI Drones

How much capacity does an SD card need for a Skydio drone?

There is a lot of discussion around the optimal capacity of microSD cards for use in drones. There are pros and cons to be considered. As far as official guidelines from Skydio, there is no limit on card capacity as long as there is enough space to capture footage from your flight. 

If you purchase the Skydio 2 Starter Kit, the microSD card needs to be purchased separately. You can buy the SanDisk 128 Extreme microSD card directly from Skydio, so if there is a recommendation, that would be it. 


Your needs and preferences may vary. Make your own decision on which card to purchase based on pricing, brand preference, or storage capacity needs. Some discussions around maximum capacity cite potential issues with the larger capacity cards available, including up to 1TB! 

I have spent an entire day in the field capturing 4K video and RAW photos and I have never really needed more than 128GB of storage before transferring files and reformatting for the next day

I typically run out of batteries or daylight before maxing out my cards. Another argument for smaller files is not putting all your eggs in one basket, as the saying goes. If you are flying multiple locations, possibly shooting real estate properties commercially for clients, you might want to have each property on a different, smaller card like 64GB. 

That way, if you run into an issue, you have potentially saved some of your data from loss. Likewise, you could opt to back up your data after each location you shoot and reformat the card before the next one. Again, base your decision on your personal needs. The Skydio drone system is flexible enough to accommodate. 

How do you prepare the SD cards for flight? 

The Skydio app has functions to format the MicroSD card before your first flight and use. As a matter of good file management and care, consider formatting your card before every flight to ensure you have enough capacity to capture all your new data. 

Doing this also means you need to ensure you have backed up or transferred all the content and data from your previous flight before the next. 

The Skydio drone creates an ExFAT file system so that any other file format will not work in the drone. The card will need reformatting before the next flight. I recommend using the in-app formatting function to ensure a clean start before each flight. 

The process to format your microSD card is straightforward: 

1. Turn on your Skydio Drone

2. connect to it via WIFI

3. Open the Skydio Flight App on your mobile device. 

4. Once connected, tap on the Info tab and select your Skydio device from the list.

5. Tap on Manage Data to see a list of options. 

6. Choose Format Media Card. 

Something to keep in mind, if you have shared photos and videos to your mobile device that you operate the Skydio with, formatting the microSD card will also delete those files from your mobile device. 

Again, make sure you back up or transfer any files you want to keep before performing this format. 

Can you fly a Skydio without an SD card? 

Since the Skydio drone does not have internal storage to capture data and video footage, you must install a microSD card to fly your drone. When purchasing your Skydio drone Starter Kit, you will need to purchase the microSD card that meets the minimum requirements stated above. 

The one sold by Skydio is a solid choice. If you select one of the other accessory kits, they come with the microSD card required, so you have everything needed to charge up and get to flying. 

Great, but what do I do with all my flight footage now? 

So, you took advantage of Skydio’s unparalleled tracking capabilities, its near-faultless, 360-degree obstacle avoidance system, and captured hours of exciting 4K video footage of your adventures hiking, biking, and exploring the great outdoors. What now? 

You can access your footage in a few ways, the simplest being to view it within the Skydio app by accessing the Media tab. This method allows you to transfer and save all or selected files directly to your photo album on your mobile device. 

Like the microSD card, make sure you have enough storage on your phone or tablet. The app works similarly to the photo viewing and editing functions on your device, so a long-click and hold will bring up a menu for a specific file where you can choose to Save to Phone. 

Depending on the types of footage or photos you have captured, you may notice some differences in how they are organized and sorted, but all the content is available. 

You have the option to edit down longer video clips, making shorter clips before saving them to your phone. Doing this is handy for quickly creating content to share on social media or to send to a friend or family member via SMS or email. 

The Skydio uses standard compression codecs of H.264 or H.265, so you can select the optimal one for your device. If you are not sure which one to use, choose H.264. It has been in use longer and is a solid standard these days. 

Photo capture options include saving in JPG or DNG (RAW) formats. Note that when reviewing photos on your mobile device, only the JPGs will be available, so you will need to transfer or download the DNG files to a laptop or computer to view and edit them. 

Of course, you can also remove the microSD card from the Skydio drone and access and edit all your files directly through a card reader on your laptop or computer. 

Similarly, you can connect the Skydio drone to your computer with the USB-C cable that comes with it and access the files that way. Be sure the USB-C port you are connecting to can supply enough power to the drone. Otherwise, you risk draining the battery rather than charging it. 

The microSD card is essential to successfully flying your Skydio drone and it’s the only way you will be able to enjoy each and every flight.

Poised for ISR Success : SATCOM Opens Up a New Dimension in Surveillance
Poised for ISR Success : SATCOM Opens Up a New Dimension in Surveillance

The BOREAL UAV can fly much farther than the range of the UHF comms it’s equipped with. Solution? Get new comms!

Sometimes you design a product so well that it exceeds the capabilities of its supporting network.

Then what you must do is re-design the network around the successful product.

Such was the case with BOREAL, a fixed-wing UAV capable of extreme long-distance flights. These distances are so long, in fact, that they extend well beyond the range of the radio-frequency technologies sending data back to the UAV’s real-time monitoring and control crew. In missions to record video far out at sea or in remote desert areas, BOREAL’s 800 kilometer range takes it far past the roughly 100-kilometer range of UHF (ultrahigh frequency) signals used to transmit the video footage it films. The integration of satellite communication into the UAV’s supporting network transforms this limitation into a success story and provides new opportunities in intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR), particularly in the maritime domain.

An immediate application is the aerial surveillance of fishing boats in remote ocean areas, for visual identification of boat registration numbers to control poaching and other illegal activities. BOREAL is also very useful in supplying essential research data, collected in wild and remote ocean areas, for the use of climate scientists and weather forecasters. Many desert and mountain applications—basically wherever there is an absence of ground infrastructure—can also be foreseen.

The solution devised by BOREAL and its partner Atmosphere, under project financing by the European Space Agency (ESA), has been to connect the UAV and its operators via satellite resources and satellite communications (SATCOM) technology.

In this project, the ground crew, that operates in the range of the drone, is able to receive the video from the camera and send back commands as usual, using BOREAL UHF’s native antenna. A SATCOM relay is installed on the ground, in the area of the drone’s mission, to give the control to a remote team, located far from the mission area. This remote team is able to send commands to the camera and receives the video, using the satellite connection and the UHF link. It was thus shown that ISR missions can be operated beyond radio ranges.

A GNSS receiver aboard the BOREAL is used along the flight path for tracking and monitoring flight operations and stamping the in-situ measurement with the precise time and location. BOREAL is a fixed-wing system that can travel 800 kilometers, at a distance up to 250 kilometers from the BOREAL Ground Station. It has a wingspan of 4.2m, measures 1.7m in length and has a maximum take-off weight of 25 kilograms, affording up to 7 kilos of payload. The BOREAL UAV is launched from a catapult and lands on its belly, affording relatively short take-off and landing operations in the field. One of the drone’s most unique features is that it can adapt to any payload and is freely configurable to any suite or combination of sensors. “One of the specificities of our drone is its modularity, which allows it to integrate several types of payloads,” BOREAL President Marc Pollina said.


The experimental project takes place in two feasibility phases. The first, a technical feasibility phase that took place in May 2021, relayed the control of the camera on a remote site with ground SATCOM means. This demo was successfully conducted, as shown in the photos accompanying this article. The second phase will be conducted in January 2022 to evaluate two SATCOM technologies onboard the UAV, using two satellite systems.

The first is a geostationary system, the Inmarsat constellation of four telecommunications satellites providing global coverage. Each satellite supports 89 beams, giving a total coverage of approximately one-third of the Earth’s surface per satellite. In addition, six steerable beams are available per satellite, which may be moved to provide higher capacity to selected locations.

The second system demonstrated is the Iridium Next constellation consisting of 66 active satellites in near-polar orbits. In 2022 a campaign in the maritime domain will take place over a period of several days or weeks.


BOREAL and the CESARS platform of the CNES team partnered to demonstrate the ability to pilot the ISR drone’s video camera from a remote site of the operational area, via satellite communication.

Located at the CNES headquarters in Toulouse, France, CESARS is the support and expertise center for satellite telecommunications uses. Its role is to support companies and public entities wishing to discover and test satellite telecommunications equipment. CESARS is one of the links in the Connect By CNES program, which offers a range of services to businesses: technical expertise (access to data, patents, space technologies, navigation, Earth observation and telecommunications), financing, training and even incubation counters.

To carry out its mission, the CESARS center has several technical resources: a laboratory equipped with a fleet of commercial off-the-shelf equipment (metrology tools, SATCOM terminals with associated subscriptions), vehicles equipped with a test bench to measure the performance of mobile antennas, and autonomous access to bandwidth on a satellite, allowing great flexibility for demonstrations. This service is free.

BOREAL and CESARS Collaborate at several levels, including material support:

This includes loan of several pieces of equipment, such as the Aviator UAV 200 antenna for the direct Edge-to-ground link, the Explorer 8100 GX antenna for establishing a ground-to-ground relay between a field remote operation and the command center, and a DEKA 65 antenna for an end-to-end managed link on a satellite partially operated by CNES. Also available from CESARS, and key to carrying out these demos, is video encoding and decoding equipment, etc. Other support includes consulting services in technology intelligence, subscriptions, pricing, implementation and preparation of test architectures, and more.

In the first demonstration in May, BOREAL and CNES gathered at a test site operated by ONERA, the French aerospace laboratory. CNES provided an Explorer 8100 GX antenna for use with the Inmarsat constellation.

Overall, the satellite connection, whether via Inmarsat or Iridium opens up several new perspectives for BOREAL:

• to become a major player in the maritime sector, encompassing traffic surveillance and illegal fishing detection

• new opportunities to meet market needs by operating cameras remotely, in otherwise inaccessible areas

• enabling remote teleoperation at reduced operating costs: with fewer people needed at the deployment site, with their actions limited only to take-off and landing, while the SATCOM results can be directed anywhere in the world

• increasing long range video surveillance capabilities by removing the UHF range limits on real-time video, to be limited only by the 800-kilometer range of the UAV

• access to extremely large and remote areas, at closer range than can be achieved by satellites and at a much lower cost than surveillance airplanes