The Age of the Internet of Things has arrived and drone technology will likely be flying in the forefront of this emerging revolution of connectivity. The IoT allows us to automate much of our physical environment – from adjustments to a household thermostat to programming a self-driving car with the best available routes via GPS.
Drones require constant communication with compoundingly complicated data sources to do more and more work while staying aloft so, it’s only natural developers incorporate the IoT to improve flight stability, capability and efficiency.
In fact, innovators see a world where drones fly autonomously as yet another extension of the IoT in the physical world. At Mexico’s National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INAOE), José Martínez Carranza is developing a cutting-edge UAV autonomy system that will allow drones to “learn” to navigate without a GPS signal or pilot backup. According to Science Daily, Martinez’s system will “estimate the position and orientation of the vehicle, allowing it to recognize its environment, hence to replace the GPS location system for low-cost sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and camcorders.”
Known as RAFAGA (Robust Autonomous Flight of unmanned aerial vehicles in GPS-denied outdoor areas), the system will use the drone’s video camera and apply an algorithm to help the UAV navigate via a map-drawing function that judges the drone’s position relative to its destination.
Ultimately, Martinez says he wants drones to build “a drone capable of being operated from wearable devices, and used in various civil applications such as surveillance, exploration of properties in the inspection of towers, among others that are beneficial to society.”
Since drone technology must constantly toe a thin line between payload capacity and battery power, IoT devices that can lighten the load and pack a monster-level chunk of computing power will always be welcome on board. Enter Samsung’s ARTIK platform – an onboard module that combines a powerful combo of “software, development boards, drivers, tools, security features and cloud connectivity,” according to Tom’s Hardware.
Announced at the recent IoT World, ARTIK has been called the world’s smallest IoT module at just 12×12 mm. With its powerful 1 GHz dual-core processor as well as on-board DRAM and flash memory, the ARTIK unit is “ideal for home hubs, drones and high-end wearables,” according to Samsung officials.
Applications in the drone world would no doubt power more and better autonomous systems, more precise mapping software and multiple channels of connectivity between user and drone. Despite being classified as “extremely low power,” ARTIK includes Bluetooth/BLE connectivity and the largest model boasts an eight-core processor, 1080 p video recording capability, Wi-FI and ZigBee connectivity. Worried about drone hacking? The ARTIK is “equipped with a machine learning-based anomaly detection system to allow users to identify abnormalities and unusual behavior and rapidly shut down hacking attempts.”
Of course, in the drone world, the most pressing area of concern is safety. With a number of high profile crashes, near misses and increased regulation in the UAV sector, could it be that the IoT concept could be adapted into an autonomous safety net to make drone skies friendlier? That’s the hope of NASA rocket scientist Dr. Parimal Kopardekar. The Principal Investigator of the NASA’s NextGen Airspace Project, Kopardekar currently heads up a project to develop the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Traffic Management System (UTM).
Akin to a roadway for the sky, the UTM would allow pilots to define a geo-fenced area to corral their drone. The geo-fenced boundaries would then be broadcast to other drones flying in the area, so that all UAVs in the area would “know” where others were flying, even in poor weather conditions. Touted as the “world’s first cloud-based aerial architecture,” the UTM would incorporate data from many IoT drones in airspace and “if the weather forecast is ominous (remember the threshold for bad weather with drones is much lower) or certain ‘lanes’ are experiencing heavy traffic, UTM can compensate or just delay your flight.”
Once the UTM is in place, Kopardekar says the sky would be the limit for drone use as the chief vehicle of the IoT Revolution:
“We are looking to work with retailers who will be using UAVs that will do deliveries -online retailers, offline retailers… anybody and everybody interested in search and rescue operations, disaster relief operations, or surveillance for pipelines or key assets like railroads. We are also looking to work with partners that have built their own vehicles not necessarily to operate but then they build some kind of autopilot or sense and avoid technologies to use with it.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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