everything to know about Japan’s DJI alternative


In a interval the place curiosity in a DJI various is excessive, the SOTEN drone couldn’t have landed within the U.S. at a extra opportune time. The DJI various comes from a Japanese drone maker referred to as ACSL, which at present rolled out particulars about its SOTEN drone because it has simply landed in U.S. markets, together with pricing and availability.

SOTEN is an industrial grade drone that makes use of a hot-swappable digital camera and strong encryption processes. Although it’s supreme for a variety of missions, goal areas embody vital infrastructure initiatives. The Japanese model of the SOTEN drone launched in late 2021, nevertheless it’s solely simply now obtainable within the U.S.

SOTEN drone ACSL power line enterprise industrial inpsection
Picture courtesy of ACSL

That’s largely on account of huge information from ACSL in spring 2023. Final Could, ACSL opened a subsidiary in Silicon Valley, California. ACSL’s U.S. subsidiary is led by CEO Cynthia Huang, who has a powerful resume together with Vice President of Enterprise Enterprise Growth at Auterion. Earlier than that, she led DJI’s North American Enterprise phase as Director of Enterprise Growth.

And with the transfer into the U.S. plus the important thing rent of Huang, ACSL made clear its plans to disrupt the U.S. drone market. 

That being mentioned, the corporate laid low from America’s public eye for roughly its first yr, apart from displaying off the drone to potential purchasers to gauge curiosity. However that’s modified as of late. Issues picked up over the previous couple weeks, with murmurs of batches of SOTEN drones arriving within the U.S.

Now, it’s official. ACSL confirmed to The Drone Lady that the primary batch of fifty drones arrived within the U.S. in late 2023. And as of this month, you possibly can order certainly one of your personal. Costs begin at lower than $10,000, and so they’ll ship as quickly as orders are positioned.

Right here’s every little thing you might want to learn about ACSL’s SOTEN drone because it arrives within the U.S.:

ACSL’s SOTEN drone: price, specs and extra

The SOTEN drone is designed and manufactured in Japan, and it’s NDAA compliant.

With that, one of many vital options SOTEN is touting is its strict safety requirements. Amongst its security measures is the choice to encrypt collected picture and video information earlier than it’s recorded to the on-board reminiscence card. In the meantime, communication between the drone and the controller is all the time encrypted. There’s additionally a proprietary controller.

SOTEN drone ACSL controller encrypted proprietary
Picture courtesy of ACSL

Although pretty widespread now, the SOTEN includes a swappable digital camera system, which is definitely a expertise that ASCL itself pioneered. Which means the usual digital camera system could be hot-swapped with an EO/IR digital camera, multispectral digital camera, or an optical zoom digital camera. So far as the usual digital camera, count on 20-megapixel pictures and 4K video, captured through a 1-inch sensor and a mechanical shutter.

Picture courtesy of ACSL

Listed here are another key specs of the SOTEN drone (or take a look at the SOTEN spec sheet for extra):

  • Strong flight instances: With an estimated 25-29 minute flight time, that’s longer than the Sony Airpeak’s promised 20 minutes assuming a normal payload.
  • Climate resistance: The drone has a dustproof and waterproof potential equal to class IP43 (although ACSL advises in opposition to flying in rain or fog, nonetheless).
  • Compact dimension: With the usual digital camera and battery, the SOTEN weighs 3.8lbs.

How a lot does ACSL’s SOTEN drone price?

So how a lot does this SOTEN drone price? ACSL introduced at present that the usual bundle of SOTEN drones will retail for slightly below $10,000. 

SOTEN drone ACSL kit
Picture courtesy of ACSL

If you buy the usual bundle, you’ll get mainly every little thing wanted to stand up and flying, together with:

  • The drone itself
  • An ordinary digital camera (20MP 1” sensor with mechanical shutter)
  • Distant controller
  • Good battery
  • Required cables

The Commonplace Package is $9,300. There’s additionally a Commonplace+ Package which additionally comes with a tough case. The Commonplace+ Package prices $9,599.

Or, you may go for the pricier Inspection Package, which will get you the entire above, plus:

  • Three extra batteries (4 complete)
  • Laborious carrying case
  • Spare propellers
  • Triple battery charging system

The Inspection Package goes for $10,779. The corporate mentioned it has plans to roll out further kits higher tailor-made to particular use circumstances, akin to an RTK equipment designed for surveying and mapping functions. There are additionally plans for a public security equipment that may embody an improved thermal sensor, set to drop later this yr. The present sensor is 320, however ACSL is planning to combine a 640 or higher sensor by the tip of the yr.

Fortunately, you received’t have to attend lengthy to get your palms on a SOTEN drone both. ACSL says you possibly can place orders by means of licensed retailers beginning at present.  And, drones will ship out as quickly as orders are positioned. The sellers are also set to operate as licensed coaching and help specialists.

Approved SOTEN sellers embody:

  • Advexure
  • Blue Skies
  • DronesMadeEasy
  • Basic Pacific (GenPac Drones)
  • Gresco UAS
  • Precision Unmanned
  • UVT
  • Volatus
Picture courtesy of ACSL

NDAA compliance

A key function of this drone is that it’s NDAA compliant. Authorities contracts will solely enable pilots utilizing NDAA-compliant drones, which makes demand for drones like SOTEN (and different’s, like Sony’s Airpeak drone) surprisingly excessive. Like SOTEN, Airpeak is made in Japan. Japanese digital camera maker Sony manufactures Airpeak.

Whereas NDAA-compliant drones aren’t essentially required to have been made within the U.S., it’s a key sign. The stamp implies that the drones don’t include elements that have been produced by sure firms that the U.S. authorities deems unfit to be used by federal companies. Unsurprisingly, many firms on the U.S. authorities’s NDAA-prohibited record are made in China — together with, sure, DJI. All of it stems from fears that drones comprised of sure firms primarily based in China and Russia are harmful, notably relating to how they deal with buyer information.

Picture courtesy of ACSL

How SOTEN got here to existence

ACSL, the corporate that builds SOTEN, has been round since 2013. ACSL is taken into account the most important Japanese drone maker within the nation.

Most American drone gamers didn’t significantly begin trying on the firm although till spring 2023. That’s when ACSL created a subsidiary primarily based in California referred to as ACSL Inc. And the subsidiary comes at an opportune time for the corporate and clients, notably as many drone makers these days have been prioritizing options like safety, versatility and high-performance.

Since arriving within the U.S., it shopped its concepts round with key clients, akin to U.S. utility firm Basic Pacific, Inc.

“We’ve been out within the discipline with dozens of shoppers and companions, demoing and testing SOTEN extensively with the objective of really understanding the wants of the market,” mentioned Dr. Christopher Raabe, World CTO of ACSL. “The response to SOTEN’s flight dynamics, security measures, and total capabilities has been glorious.”

It then made numerous enhancements to its drone. That included lowered video latency, enhanced gimbal and digital camera controls, an improved person interface, and compliance with FAA remote ID requirements

SOTEN drone ACSL on landing pad
Picture courtesy of ACSL

What’s subsequent for SOTEN?

For now, there are simply 50 drones up for grabs, however that received’t be the case for lengthy. Extra SOTEN drones are coming. The corporate mentioned it had plans for “a whole bunch of further models to reach within the coming months.”

ACSL additionally says it already has particular plans to enhance its merchandise all through the corporate yr.

“Different requests which were prioritized into ACSL’s 2024 roadmap embody an improved optical/thermal digital camera, sensible controller upgrades, longer flight time, lengthy vary communications, mobile community connectivity, and an SDK for third-party software program improvement,” in line with an announcement from ACSL.


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