ModalAI Launches New Autopilot System for Drones and Ground Robots

ModalAI said 5G has served as a major enabler of drone technology growth.


VOXL 2 is the company's smallest autopilot framework.
Taking advantage of the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G Platform, ModalAI has introduced the next generation of its UAS framework autopilot system.

Autonomous drone technology maker ModalAI Inc. this week launched its new autopilot technology, VOXL 2.

“VOXL 2 enables autonomy and communications for indoor and outdoor drones and robots with vison-based SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) and AI for movement designed specifically for GPS-denied autonomous UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] with obstacle avoidance,” the company said in a release.

The San Diego, Calif.-based company added with 5G, “VOXL 2 enhances mission critical navigation, including beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) to support safer, more reliable flight.”

New system powered by Qualcomm

ModalAI said VOXL 2 is powered by the Qualcomm Flight RB5 5G platform. It is integrated with a PX4 real-time flight controller, which the company says has “an eight-core CPU up to 15 TOPs [trillions of operations per second].” The board also has seven image sensors, TDK internal measurement units, and barometer.

The company spun out of chipmaker Qualcomm Technologies Inc in 2018. ModalAI is a Blue UAS Framework manufacturer, which means it works with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop component technologies. It also collaborates with Qualcomm.

ModalAI has diverse customer base

Chad Sweet, ModalAI CEO and co-founder, told Robotics 24/7 his team has been working on developing the technology for the past two years. He said the company has a diverse set of customers— from greenhouse and coal mining inspectors to UAV video surveillance operators.

“This industry is really challenging, and we are looking to trying to get our customers more than 90% toward having a platform where they can implement their use case,” he said.  

Advancements in chip technologies have helped the company to put more processes on device, he said.

“The more at the edge, the less burden on the radio, the less burden on the radio, the less burden on the pilot, the more efficient the pilot becomes,” he said. “That process is more ahead of us then behind us. But that is what we are trying to achieve. We can do an incredible amount of deep learning on this platform.”

A dozen customers already using the new technology

The company said the VOXL 2, which is being assembled in the U.S, helps address “supply chain concerns around unreliable, unsecure components from foreign manufactures.”

It said more than a dozen of its partners have already started using VOXL 2 in their drone and robot fleets. The company sells a reference drone for developers on its website.

“ModalAI is unlocking the barriers for advanced robotics workflows with the VOXL 2,” said Ramón Roche, program manager at the Dronecode Foundation, “The PX4 Autopilot runs natively on the QRB5165 at the heart of the VOXL 2, enabling adopters with vast flexibility from a feature-rich open-source stack.”

Sweet said the company will continue to support VOXL, the previous version of the framework, for the next few years.  

Loaded on a board weighing 16 g (0.5 oz.), the technology can be purchased on ModalAI's website for $1,199.

Blue UAS framework 2.0 autopilot.

About the Author

Cesareo Contreras's avatar
Cesareo Contreras
Cesareo Contreras was associate editor at Robotics 24/7. Prior to working at Peerless Media, he was an award-winning reporter at the Metrowest Daily News and Milford Daily News in Massachusetts. Contreras is a graduate of Framingham State University and has a keen interest in the human side of emerging technologies.
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VOXL 2 is the company's smallest autopilot framework.

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