Unmanned with one hand

Houston-based company's device is revolutionizing drone technology across industries

Fluidity Technologies' joystick-like device is designed based on movement in space. Courtesy of Fluidity

It's not enough that Scott Parazynski has spent 57 days, 15 hours and 34 minutes in space. Nor is the fact that he's trained as a trauma surgeon. Not even climbing Mount Everest as a team physician for the Discovery Channel could satisfy one of Earth's most talent-blessed residents. Now Parazynski is on course to change multiple industries with his latest invention.

Not surprisingly, the member of the US Astronaut Hall of Fame based his design on movement in space. He wanted to approximate the movement of simultaneously shifting from one place to another, but also changing the body's orientation. In zero gravity, it takes precision and planning, Parazynski says, to do that in the most efficient way possible.

As a member of the Houston Methodist Research Institute, his goal was to create a joystick-like device "that would revolutionize surgical robotics." That is still a target for the technology, but with his own Houston-based company, Fluidity Technologies, Parazynski is first releasing the device as a drone controller known as FT Aviator.

"Mostly because it's an enormously growing marketplace and the barriers are a lot less," he admits.

That's not to say Parazynski is anything less than a world-class expert on the subject of flight.

"I've flown aircraft and spacecraft," says Parazynski. "But none allowed for the precision of motion I was looking for. None prevented unintended motion."

Lifelong passion
He himself has had toy drones for as long as they've been available and purchased his first "serious drones" three or four years ago, around the same time he conceived of FT Aviator.

When he started to research other drone controllers, he realized that most current models aren't too different from relics from the 1930s on display at the Smithsonian.

"There has been zero innovation in flight control," he says.

As opposed to the two-handed controllers that recall 1990s video game systems, FT Aviator only requires the attention of the pilot's dominant hand. This is especially useful to those using drone cameras. Instead of complex machinations that often require multiple launches, the user can simply make adjustments to the camera with his or her other hand.

"It does this incredibly intuitive motion with a drone or computer game or virtual augmented reality," Parazynski says, listing other potential uses for the technology.

It's FT Aviator's natural movement that will one day make Fluidity's core technology a groundbreaker in surgical robotics. Since the da Vinci surgical robot's 2000 FDA approval, the machine has created controversy. In the hands of a well-trained surgeon, it substantially reduces healing time. But there is no approval process for doctors to use it, so disasters in the hands of untrained practitioners have made the news.

By using the simpler mechanism of Parazynski's technology, the learning curve for robotic surgery is far less steep.

"What we want to do is make it so someone with less training can enjoy the same outcomes," Parazynski explains.

Cross-industry innovation
Ideally, one day a doctor in Houston will be able to operate remotely on a patient across the globe. Thanks to the device's tactile feedback, it's a realistic goal.

But Parazynski foresees "dozens of applications" for his invention, which will begin shipping in February. Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico has already engaged Fluidity, just one on a list of about 50 businesses and government institutions interested to work with the company when it comes onto the marketplace.

"But any good startup will tell you it's about focus," the entrepreneur admits.

That means that for now, he and his team have his eye specifically on controlling drones. Within two weeks of launching a Kickstarter this fall for the business, Fluidity doubled its goal. The FT Aviator has been named a 2019 Innovation Award Honoree at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. But Parazynski says he owes much of his success to Houston, his home of a quarter century.

Fluidity is based out of a WeWork coworking space.

"I think it's a really exciting place to have a tech startup" Parazynski says. "It's not yet to the scale of Silicon Valley or even Austin but certainly the innovation that's taking place here warrants a major tech hub."

And thanks to Parazynski's work, that day may be coming sooner rather than later.

Drone on

Courtesy of Fluidity

From surgeries to flying drones, Fluidity's technology will affect several industries.

This Houston startup has cut out the middleman to provide businesses quick, cost-efficient deliveries through a tech-optimized platform. Photo via tuyatech.com

A Houston startup is set to disrupt the same-day delivery sector with its innovative marketplace platform technology that connects businesses and delivery professionals, enhancing customer experience and reducing costs for clients.

Houston-based TUYA Technologies is transforming the B2B same-day delivery industry by connecting businesses with delivery professionals with the recent launch of their proprietary digital platform that cuts out the middleman and increases efficiency in same-day deliveries.

"We're interested in building technology that makes the movement of packages, parcels, and pallets of things move expeditiously across the city of Houston, not the next day, or second day like some of our competitors," says TUYA's CEO and co-founder, John Oren. "Our technology is focused on delivering packages in one or two hours and connect businesses directly to delivery professionals that own the equipment."

The company has launched in Houston and is used locally by more than 300 registered customers and 70 independent delivery professionals with more than 1,500 deliveries per week.

TUYA plans to continue to expand in the Texas market as they continue to raise capital, closing their most recent funding round at $16.9 million in September 2019. They are planning to launch their technology in the San Antonio market in a week quickly followed by their expansion into Dallas and Austin after that. Their goal is to expand its services across the 21 major cities in the U.S.

"Our management team is geared to bring our business plan to reality by expanding and introducing our new technology to new markets," says Oren.

TUYA has simplified the process by removing middlemen and adding new technology. To order, businesses can use the TUYA website or the TUYA Shipper App, removing the need for customer service representatives to take orders. There they can also select preferred delivery professionals to deliver their orders. The technology allows the client to get upfront pricing, real-time delivery tracking updates and even speak with drivers directly.

"In today's world, we all want our stuff delivered, conveniently, efficiently, and most importantly economically," says Oren. "The business that is able to develop the cheapest cost will beat the competition. Our technology is geared to extract this locked up value by removing added logistics costs involved in getting something picked up in one business and delivered to another."

The TUYA platform also provides drivers with the flexibility to drive at their own schedule and work multiple deliveries at once, reducing their downtime and increasing the number of deliveries. This added freedom allows delivery professionals to choose the deliveries they want without restrictions while using TUYA's optimized routes for efficiency.

TUYA Technologies began in 2015 after Oren realized the necessity to update the B2B delivery sector to the low-cost and speed-driven delivery needs of the 21st century. Oren, who started his own delivery business more than 40 years ago says he saw little innovation in the market, with companies wasting valuable time and efficiency.

"The waste inherent model of the 1970s was still being applied to today's industry, thus wasting time, effort and resources," says Oren. "I knew that integrating the right technology could turn the same-day delivery industry on its head."

TUYA co-founders invested $12.5 million of their own capital, along with an additional $20 million. After a period of market research, they began acquiring local delivery companies such as Hot Shot Delivery and Primer Delivery Services, providing same-day delivery to retailers, supply companies, and wholesale distributors among others.