One of the strongest wishes of America's increasingly digital defense industry is to find a way to monitor or control several pieces of equipment on a single operating system. This is especially true in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), where too often, each manufacturer creates a unique platform for its drone, and customers who buy several different kinds of drones cannot easily coordinate operation between them.
Now, buyers of a version of one of the most prolific UAVs on the market will soon be able to buy an operating system that can work with other drones. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has been given permission by the Defense Department to sell unarmed versions of its famed Predator, called the Predator XP, to international customers in places like the Middle East, or friendly allies bordering the Ukraine and Russia, like Poland.
Those customers can now choose to buy Predators with an open operating system made by DreamHammer, a tech start-up in Southern California's "Silicon Beach." CNBC profiled DreamHammer in January, as it was demonstrating its software to every major manufacturer of UAVs.
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With General Atomics, DreamHammer successfully demonstrated that its software can help Predator drones work with existing civilian and military air control systems. Bill Thomas, head of strategic development for the Predator at GA, said he believes the software can "bridge the gap" in compatibility. His company reportedly hopes to do over $800 million in international sales by 2017.
Future of drones
DreamHammer said it will also offer Predator XP customers a control system that allows one operator to operate several UAV systems at once. This is another trend drone buyers have been pushing for—greater efficiency—as too often, UAVs require one person to constantly monitor one drone.
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One issue of concern is the potential for security breaches when there's an open platform, but in this particular case, the DreamHammer software will allow only monitoring of a variety of UAVs at once, not the ability to take control of them.
While the DreamHammer system is being offered as an option on the Predator XPs, there is currently no other product available that does the same job.
DreamHammer CEO Nelson Paez said the packaging of his software with the XPs "would be a tremendous vote of confidence for our technology and the future of drones."