• Posted on: February 10, 2021
  • Category: Technology
  • Leo Poon

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    Leo Poon

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Drones: Now and in the Future

The drone industry is rapidly growing and will continue to expand in the future. Various applications, such as commercial delivery, mapping, and search and rescue, can be finished easier with unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations. Along with the created economic benefits, this resource will also speed up data collection and reduce the workload of the enforcement teams. These technological advances, such as algorithms to avoid obstacles and planned network configuration, allows pilots to fly their aircraft beyond the visual line of sight (VLOS), thus making the option of autopilot becomes possible. Federal and local governments are now optimizing drone-related regulations to ensure aviation safety. All of us will be benefited when the industry becomes mature.

Current UAV Applications

Drones have been widely used for commercial delivery in recent years. Drone Delivery Canada Corp. (DDC) has had a bright start in the new year after proving their ability to transport temperature-controlled medical supplies and blood test samples to remote areas by the drone services. The President of DDC suggested possibly distributing vaccines by their drones for time-critical deliveries and discussions are undergoing with Federal and Provincial Government agencies now. The company is planning to integrate Artificial Intelligence into its drone delivery solution. [1]

The UAV is also well known for its ability for large scale data collection. For example, a recent project to inspect 4,000 miles of power transmission lines in Ohio using photogrammetry [2]. The mapping practices is not limited to ground features only. The CAT Strategic Metal Corporation is planning to begin a high-resolution magnetic survey for approximately 1200 hectares of land in the Bathurst Mining District of New Brunswick to map the magnetic disruption. A detailed structural map will be created to locate copper-silver concentrations. [3]

Magnetic survey by drone. Photo courtesy: Gem Systems

Local authorities are getting familiar with drones for their daily operations for search and rescue. The Civil Air Search and Rescue Association of Canada has cooperated with Kongsberg Geospatial and Larus technologies to develop a search and rescue solutions based on AI with deep learning techniques. The missions are to be carried out in remote areas near the Arctic. The search and rescue practice can also be conducted in metropolitan areas. The Charlottetown police found a missing woman with the help of drone using thermal imagery last month. Drone operations can assist rescue teams to narrow down search areas efficiently and effectively, especially under extreme weather conditions. [4] [5]

The Future of Drone

The technological advancement has unlocked the limitation of drone operations. There are many other solutions that we can work with a UAV. The advantages of efficiency, accessibility and durability make drones are alternative solutions to many other works.

Police departments can use UAVs to perform routine patrols in rural and coastal areas. Different flying routes can be created to keep an eye on local communities. The drones can be used to assist when there is an Amber Alert as well. This would be similar to a remote search and rescue mission but within an urban context. The thermal sensor could allow the enforcement team to identify mission child at night. Drone imagery has also been identified as a tool for vehicle identification.

Traffic surveys of busy intersections can be carried out by drones, reducing the manpower normally required to stay outdoors. The Engineers can deploy more than one UAVs at the same time to increase efficiency. Machine learning technologies can assist in counting the volume of road traffic, and the results can be used to study traffic congestion hot spots to develop solutions for it.

Road traffic monitoring. Photo courtesy: Data From Sky

Drone operations, on the other hand, can be used for leisure. It can be contributed to broadcast live footage for races, such as the Tour de France, World Rally Championship, or Marathon. The UAVs will replace most vehicles in efforts to reduce carbon footprints. A drone is more mobile and agile than cars, making it is easier to film better footage.

The Urge for UAV-related Regulations

Despite the convenience of drones, the pilots should not overlook potential threats that the aircraft can bring to the community or the nature.

Operations in regions near the poles may be more susceptible to being affected by magnetic interferences. Further studies are required to find out the best season and time for UAV operations to minimize risks. Similar situations could happen in lower Latitudes. Flight frequencies could be affected by targetted radio or cellular jamming or electronic devices such as medical equipment in hospitals. The operators may need to create specific encrypted channels for urban missions.

Air traffic safety is the biggest concern among all threats since that could cause injuries to the general public. In most situations, the drones are not allowed to fly over controlled airspace and near clusters of people. A person was fined after flying a drone over celebration crowds for Raptors’ NBA championship. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration introduced two new safety rules associated with drone operations in December 2020. The regulations can enhance aviation safety and encourage more commercial applications in the future. By categorizing drones by registration, we will have information about the types and sizes of drones in the market. Each flying application will state types of flight operations with flying height details and nearby environments, allowing Transport Canada to monitor the air traffic in real-time.

Where can you fly your drones? Photo courtesy: Transport Canada

Besides, drone traffic should have the same characteristics as road traffic. The authority is now approaching to define drone ‘roads’ in air. Airmatrix, a Canadian company specializing in air traffic solutions, is working with Transport Canada to assess aviation routes. Detailed maps created along with specific routes within 400 feet high above ground level. With the help of algorithms to assist the autopilot, the aircraft can avoid nearby obstacles and each other. Medicines can be transported from pharmacies and care homes drones. The test flights were successfully conducted in Waterloo, Ontario [6]. Moreover, Law enforcement/rescue teams will be given temporary authority to land all nearby drones in case of an emergency. Creation of safe flying zones could be defined for recreation purposes. It can stop them from flying at random locations which can increase the risk of air traffic accidents.

Drone “roads. Photo courtesy: multichannelmerchant

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is a powerful resource which can reduce workforce required on site. The increased efficiency allows remote dwellers to enjoy services that they did not have before. We will be able to understand our world better and improve our life.

Reference:

[1]: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/drone-delivery-canada-announces-update-on-healthcare-projects-886186332.html

[2]: https://www.suasnews.com/2021/01/dpl-partners-with-sensefly-and-sinclair-college-to-build-drone-program-and-bolster-enterprise-utilities-management/

[3]: https://www.baystreet.ca/viewarticle.aspx?id=625637

[4]: https://www.unmannedsystemstechnology.com/2020/05/ai-and-drone-technology-to-enhance-search-and-rescue-in-canada/

[5]: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-thermal-imaging-drone-rescue-1.5849766

[6]: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/technology/video-why-a-canadian-company-is-mapping-drone-roads-in-the-sky/

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