UK insurance company Direct Line wants people to feel safer at night – so it’s launched a street light drone prototype, which could walk you home and light your way in dark areas at night.
The drones are part of a series of experiments that Direct Line is carrying out to promote projects that improve people’s everyday lives.
The “Fleetlights” service is comprised of a swarm of interconnected drones equipped with high-powered lights.
The drones can be summoned on demand from a smartphone to provide lighting wherever you are. The drones are low speed and low altitude, and can adjust to your speed whether you are on foot, bike, or in a vehicle. “The Fleetlights service can dynamically adapt to your journey, lighting your way whether you are walking, cycling or driving your car,” says Direct Line’s technical paper.
Most of the Fleetlight drones – those used for lighting walkers or cyclists – weigh less than 2kg, have a maximum speed of 15 meters per second (which is about 30 mph) and a range of 1.5 miles. The drone battery provides about 20-30 minutes in hover. For lighting the path of a car, the fleet offers advanced platforms: lightweight, six-engine hexacopters with a max speed of 60 mph, carrying 3 lighting units. The drones have an autonomous recovery system.
The idea is certainly intriguing – and anyone in a small town can relate to the problem of dimly lit streets. But in addition to being a unique business concept, the Fleetlight project introduces some new drone technology. “Until now, swarms of drones would only respond to a ‘master’ drone in the air,” says Direct Line. “Our new ‘Rover’ technology allows a swarm of drones to be responsive to a subject on the ground while remaining in formation.” Real Time Kinetics (RTK) are another innovation used by the fleet: “Smartphone GPS units are accurate to roughly an 8m radius. To achieve greater precision, Fleetlights incorporates RTK Reach Units increasing accuracy to 10-20mm,” Direct Line explains. “This technology is currently only used for military applications. However, future smartphone technology will achieve this accuracy without this additional unit.”
Fleetlight is currently in Beta test in the UK.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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