by Dr. Sergio Rodriguez (Sheffield, United Kingdom)
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), urban air mobility (UAM), and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are all concepts that are becoming increasingly talked about, but they are still at a development stage. Here, Access Partnership gives us its take on how one part of this market – drones – will be safely monitored.
In recent years, the public image of drones as undesired, unexpected, and sometimes alien devices, has changed. From a threat to our well-being and privacy, and generating instant panic the moment a buzzing set of propellers disrupted the harmony of nearby airspace, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are now being seen more as a human extension rather than an intruder.
The incorporation of drones in logistics, security, exploration, agriculture, and even personal transport could lead to the drone market growing to $129 billion by 2025 (source: Forbes). To secure a smooth further integration of drones in our daily lives, the development of effective monitoring of their activities will be a key component.
Keeping track of drone movement must evolve according to the growth of the industry, and drone trackers must aim to develop user-friendly interfaces to provide traffic information in real-time. The early stages of UAV radars and detectors have gradually adapted to the latest models from leading drone manufacturers. This will enable real-time monitoring of UAVs in action: for example a parcel delivery, assistance on building construction, or the irrigation of a crop field. This will also help mitigate malicious uses of drone technology.
Drone monitoring technology keeps evolving to the point of turning every smartphone or computer into a real-time drone monitor. Similarly, some websites and apps provide live updates on aerial traffic such as Freedar UK. Many tech giants in the drone industry and mobile communications are now investing to develop digital platforms that will enable the integration of a new sort of aerial traffic: the unpiloted team.
2.4 Million Consumer Drone Shipments by 2023
According to Business Insider, there will be 2.4 million consumer drone shipments by 2023, creating interest by logistic giants in implementing and sharing real-time information about unpiloted deliveries. An effective way to do this is to use a reliable method to track and pinpoint UAVs during their accomplishment of duties. The projected growth will help alleviate congested roads in the largest urban areas as well as facilitate reaching the remotest locations in rural settlements. Tracking methods will play an essential role and the vision is to create an ‘aerial road’, so to speak, in which drone traffic can coexist harmoniously and in a controlled manner.
The evolution of detection and mitigation of drones has boomed in the past five years with interesting and disruptive developments from well-known companies in the industry. Drone detectors and trackers vary depending on the cost, range, and functionality. Going back a few years we can find the pioneering drone radars reporting any small aerial activity in a customized rudimentary platform like Echodyne. However, since UAVs have evolved exponentially, such companies have adapted their products accordingly.
EchoGuard demonstration of data accuracy for slew-to-cue of Bosch optical sensor.
Nowadays the market offers a wide selection of cost-effective drone detection solutions integrating cutting-edge communication systems such as radio frequency (RF) passive detectors which analyze frequency spectrum activity and detect the presence of drone’s complex communications protocols using machine learning and artificial intelligence – examples include DroneShield, Dedrone and Drone Defence.
Moreover, the rock stars of mobile communications such as phased array antennas have made a triumphal entry in the world of drone detection by adapting military-grade equipment into user-friendly and easily installable drone detectors (for example Aaronia, Radiansa and Echodyne).
Echodyne’s EchoGuard not only offers compact drone radars but also ensures a simple way to combine its counter-drone radars with additional devices to keep the skies invigilated, thus creating much-needed system interoperability to lead the way in future developments. In addition to more sophisticated hardware, manufacturers have tended to create digital platforms to present, in a clear and illustrated manner, all the data gathered by their products, which converges in a single item: a website or an app.
[In the second part of this article we will explore, in further detail, aspects of drone detection and tracking from the user’s point of view.]
[Main image: Phantom 4 RKT drone courtesy of DJI]