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CyPhy Works, startup from iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner, unveils two hover-drones

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 3, 2012 12:54 PM

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Three years after it was founded, Danvers-based CyPhy Works is finally showing off what it has been working on this week, unveiling two hovering drones designed for indoor and outdoor operations. The company's founder and chief executive is Helen Greiner, one of the three founders of publicly-traded iRobot Corp., maker of earth-bound robots like the Roomba vaccuum cleaner and the PackBot.

One of the most interesting elements of CyPhy's product design is that its UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are tethered to a hand-held control system on the ground, rather than free-flying. The company's "microfilament" technology sends power to the UAV, meaning that its flight time is unlimited. It also transmits high-def video back down to the control system, and the company says that unlike wireless links, it cannot be jammed by an enemy.

parc-cyphy.jpgCyPhy says that its two vehicles, EASE and PARC, may be used for tasks like helping military or police units investigate the interior of buildings without sending people in; search for survivors of natural or man-made disasters; or inspect bridges, buildings, or other infrastructure. PARC is also designed to serve as a communications relay, staying aloft for long periods without human intervention. (The acronym stands for Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance & Communications.) EASE, which stands for Extreme Access System for Entry, is pictured above, and PARC is at left. Both are designed for hovering between three feet and 1000 feet, as opposed to long-range horizontal flight.

According to my math, CyPhy Works has so far raised about $3 million in equity funding, much of it from Cambridge-based VC firm General Catalyst. But several million more has come in the form of federal research grants. The company hasn't yet announced any customers who have purchased its UAVs.

Here's a piece about the company that just appeared today on the website of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

And company-produced video is below, featuring one of its UAVs being flight-tested at Fort Benning in Georgia:

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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