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Your location: Home > Related Articles > Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology Expands the Coverage of Mobile Internet of Things

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology Expands the Coverage of Mobile Internet of Things

Author:QINSUN Released in:2024-01 Click:24

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (more commonly known as "drones") - By introducing drones into airlines, the Wright brothers' dream of manned flight has become a reality.

Drones can be used for various activities, from solemn missions in long-range warfare to comical actions by amateur pilots. But as companies begin to realize the operational and economic benefits of drone functions, more drone activities fill the gap between military tools and amateur toys.

According to the task at hand, the size of drones ranges from just one foot long to the size of small aircraft. Among these tasks, some more interesting applications appear in the Internet of Things/Industrial IIoT/IIoT environment. Drones can effectively add mobile IoT endpoints, extending the network beyond physical limitations. This becomes crucial as many business processes occur at the edge of the network. On the contrary, drone technology has extended the functions of many mobile animal networking devices to new areas at the edge.

"I believe that drones are largely IoT devices, with a lot of overlap in technology, customers, and use cases," said Adam Bry, CEO of Skydio, a drone hardware and software manufacturer in Redwood, California.

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAS), are unique in their ability to detect and report locations that cannot be reached by other means. In the Internet of Things environment, drones can act as mobile sensors to collect data and relay it back to cloud applications or other analytical services.

Drones can also be used as remote inspection devices to help maintain IoT endpoints and other components. For example, drones can check the physical condition of tower sensors or other IoT connected devices, eliminating the need for face-to-face inspections of potential hazards. In some cases, drones may be used for necessary maintenance activities or equipment repairs. At least, this is a fast, safe, and economical way to monitor critical equipment.

Drone market growth

Research firm Gartner predicts the growth of commercial drones. Gartner pointed out in his predictive analysis that "by 2020, the global shipment of IoT enterprise drones (defined as flying drones) will reach 526000 units, a 50% increase from 2019.". "It is expected that the global shipment volume will reach 1.3 million units by 2023."

"Suddenly, the pace accelerated," said David Benowitz, the research leader of DroneAnalyst. "In the past few years, we have seen more industrial applications, which is where development is accelerating. But you know, in the past four to five years, we have seen a high level of maturity in drone technology, which has led to the adoption of many... businesses."

Customers adopt tracking and market forecasting. A survey conducted by drone software provider DroneDeploy on its 140 customers showed that 53% of customers said they expected to increase spending on drones and drone software by 2020. The company's survey results are detailed in its 2020 report on the state of the drone market: size and growth, which also indicates that less than 5% of respondents expect to reduce drone spending.

Despite this good news, drone technology remains an emerging industry with potential and growth potential, especially in the IoT environment. Bry said, "From a product and technology perspective, this is still the wild west."

The usage and reasons of drone technology

Gartner's report shows that drones are currently the most widely used in the construction industry, followed by fire monitoring services, insurance companies, and police departments. In the coming years, the use of drones in all these fields is expected to double.

A survey conducted by the Drone Industry Watch (DII), published in the Drone Industry Barometer 2020 report by the Drone Market Research Organization, showed that 35% of drone service providers and 18% of commercial users pointed out that inspection/maintenance was the most commonly used case of drones. Other main uses include surveying (25%/16%), surveying (15%/33%), and photography or photography (16%/19%).

DII respondents ranked their reasons for using drones as very important, important, and unimportant. 60% of respondents stated that saving time is very important, followed by improving quality (59%). 53% of respondents said that improving work safety is very important, and the final 47% of respondents believe that cost savings are very important.

A few industries have taken the lead in using drones as an extension of the Internet of Things environment or as a supplement to other data collection processes.

Energy companies are adding drone inspection capabilities to their extensive IoT infrastructure. Drones can easily fly over and visually scan power lines, wind turbines, and other power generation and transmission devices - otherwise these tasks would have to be manually completed or impossible at all. The concept of faster, cheaper, and safer drones makes their use particularly attractive to power suppliers.

Agricultural integrated enterprises represent another pioneer in vertical drones. Large farms have relied on IoT sensors to measure water, soil quality, and other key indicators. But many farms have added drone sensing devices. Some of the information collected by drones is the same as that of connected sensors, but they can go beyond more basic information and use cutting-edge technologies to collect data, such as infrared photography and other aerial images.

The construction and insurance industries are also well suited for drone technology, as it allows them to easily inspect the site and buildings without the need for workers to be present.

Skydio's Bry described how the North Carolina Department of Transportation uses Skydio's hardware and software to inspect the bottom and support structures of bridges.

"In the past, we used a reconnaissance truck, which was a huge machinery that drove along the top of the bridge and then hung a person on a large cantilever arm below, which was very expensive and dangerous," Bry said.

It goes without saying that using drones instead of peeping cars avoids many of the costs and dangers of previous methods. In this case, the autonomous operation capability of the Skydio drone is crucial, as the drone may have to fly out of the operator's sight.

Drone payload

Considering the various tasks that drones can handle, they need to carry specialized equipment to collect data and transmit it to IoT endpoints or other facilities for analysis.

The basic equipment of drones will include navigation and communication equipment, such as GPS and Wi Fi or LTE wireless data transmission.

From static and video cameras to more complex imaging devices, cameras are also a fundamental component of the drone toolset. Depending on their purpose, drones may also carry heat or humidity sensing devices. Imaging data can now be processed in real-time, making drones look like any other data collection device connected to the Internet of Things.

Drones can also be used to transport goods, as highlighted by Amazon's testing of drone delivery for online sales of goods.

Precautions for drone implementation

Drones are typically equipped with two types of software. The software closely integrated with the drone hardware controls the drone and gears to maintain them at high altitude, while connecting them back to the operator who controls the drone's flight path. The second type of software is applications, which are programs that allow drones to complete their specific tasks and collect relevant information.

At present, there are no standards for controlling or applying software, so potential buyers must be aware that application software typically needs to be customized to work with specific manufacturers of drones and their basic operating systems. Therefore, you must ensure that the software you need can run on the drone hardware you plan to purchase. For example, Skydio sells some application software together with its drones, such as Skydio3D scanning and SkydioHouse scanning, and also collaborates with third-party drone software manufacturers to develop other applications. Of course, potential users must confirm that the data format collected and disseminated by drones is consistent with other formats currently used in existing data analysis programs. Some integration work may be required.

"Each manufacturer usually has their own SDK (Software Development Kit) that can be used as an API (Application Programming Interface), so you can install different applications, have different controls, and achieve different automation," Benowitz pointed out.

Another consideration is the type of communication equipped with the drone and its ease of integration with existing IoT or other network environments.

"There are proprietary forms of communication, and most communication between drones and remote controls is proprietary," Benowitz said. "Generally speaking, it is encrypted according to AES-256."

Although most drones use Wi Fi or proprietary variants of this standard, LTE broadband is an urgent alternative. This can be achieved by adding SIM chips to drones, which will enable them to significantly expand their combat range using 4G or 5G technology.

Skydio's Bry said, "I believe that over time, LTE will become an important component of the entire industry.".

Increasing range is not just a technical obstacle. The regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States currently restrict flying drones from "beyond visual range" and above people or at night. Operating a drone under any of the above conditions requires exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration of the United States and may pass a test that demonstrates the operator's driving skills.

Another scope issue is battery life. The battery must provide power for the flight and data acquisition and transmission of drones, so a short battery life means shorter and more frequent tasks. Battery technology has been improved, and like other battery driven transportation equipment, this technology has also received widespread attention and development. A French company called xSun is trying to solve the battery problem by equipping its drones with solar cells.

Benowitz pointed out, "I would like to say that for most applications, battery life is not a big issue." If you are performing automated imaging tasks, the drone's level of automation is high enough, and when you need to replace the battery, it will come back. If you replace the battery, it will resume working. "

Other developments that require attention include precision docking equipment that can charge and launch unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as traffic management systems that can provide more precise flight control.

Drones have different price tags

Considering the performance of drones in specific environments, drones are a very economical solution, especially when conducting manned flights on helicopters or other aircraft.

The cost of drones will largely depend on their application, expected use, usage time, and conditions. That is to say, a commercial drone can be almost as cheap as a consumer drone, priced around $1000. However, drones used for industrial purposes are certainly more expensive, but generally still fall within the range of "thousands of dollars" rather than tens of thousands of dollars.

Benowitz said, "There is a large range, although most purchase prices are still between $1000 and $2000."

For most businesses, this moderate price tag will make drones a very affordable alternative to IoT/IIoT infrastructure.

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