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Tesla loses senior engineer w/decade at the company to stealthy autonomous drone startup

Tesla has now over 14,000 employees, but back in 2005, the automaker was employing less than one hundred workers and Dan Adams was one of them. Adams joined Tesla as a Senior Mechanical Engineer in 2005 and had a 10-year career at the company, making him one of the most senior engineers at the 12 year old “startup”.

We now learn that Adams recently left Tesla to join Skydio, a drone startup in stealth mode, which announced the closing of a $25 million financing round this week.

The veteran engineer, who’s listed as an inventor on many of Tesla’s patents, joins his former colleague Benjamin Thompson who worked on Tesla’s Autopilot hardware team until October 2015 and is now Skydio’s Product Design Lead.

On its website, the startup offers a brief description of the company:

“Drones will be the first widely deployed mobile robots and the first cutting edge aerospace products available to consumers. We are a team of experts in computer vision, robotics, and consumer electronics from places like MIT, Stanford, Google, Apple, and Tesla working to make autonomous flight a trusted, useful, and magical part of life.”

One could say that it’s not that big of a leap going from Tesla to Skydio considering they are both making electric vehicles powered by battery packs and are both equipped with some form of autonomous features. Though one is constrained to the ground, while the other can fly.

Before creating Skydio in early 2014, co-founders Adam Bry and Abraham Bachrach were both software engineers at Google’s Project Wing, a drone-based delivery system under development at Google X.

Skydio tries to stand out from other drone manufacturers with its technology that uses its drone’s video feed to construct a 3D map of the surroundings and feed it back to the drone’s flight controller in order to automatically avoid obstacles. The system results in a very efficient autopilot, which can be simply controlled by waving your phone like a “magic wand”.

The company announced this week the closing of its $25 million series A financing round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. The company offers very little information about its products and timeline, but it aims to control the “entire product experience, including designing and building the drone itself.”

Featured Image: Unofficial Tesla Drone design.

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  1. awkward001 - 7 years ago

    that video made me want to get one immediately! So many rock cliffs and areas difficult to access while hiking in my neck of the woods… but then I am afraid that my hiking excursions will become me sitting on a rock looking at my phone!


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