How IoT Will Help Bring Order to Drone-Filled Skies in Dubai

This year almost 3 million commercial drones will be shipped1 and one of the main reasons for the rapid proliferation is their transformative impact. Don’t want to scale a 350-foot high cell tower to look for corrosive wiring? Well, now you don’t have to.

Last fall, IBM announced a partnership with a Netherland-based company called Aerialtronics, which designs and produces unmanned aircraft systems. Today the company’s units connect to the Watson Internet of Things (IoT) Platform on IBM Cloud to bring high-quality inspection services to places that aren’t easily accessible, such as wind turbines, oil rigs, cell towers or in-flight aircraft.

As more drones soar overhead, what is going to prevent in-air collisions with other drones or buildings? What about restricted airspace? How are we going to keep these areas “drone-free?”

Just last year, the Dubai International Airport was forced to shut down for 30 minutes because a drone entered its airspace. That resulted in 45 to 65-minute flight delays. And this wasn’t an isolated incident. In 2016 nearly 3,500 drone incidents were reported by airports.

That’s about to change, thanks to cognitive technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), Exponent Technology Services and IBM are working on the industry’s first cognitive, real-time tracking solution for commercial drones. That’s the same technology in use by the drones inspecting cell towers. This solution will power what will essentially become the first air traffic control system for these devices.

The solution, which will attach directly onto the drone, will include several key capabilities including:

  • Geospatial Services: Operators will be able to analyze moving object trajectories through geospatial services on the Watson IoT Platform. These services won’t just ensure drones fly in approved area, they’ll allow teams to track the location, speed and height of the commercial drones and ensure they are not in violation of any General Civil Aviation Authority regulations.
  • Telemetry Data: Watson IoT will be able to view and record the telemetry data of the drone so operators can build up knowledge about flight paths as well as pilot and drone operating history. And the platform will retain this data in order to “learn” the flight restrictions–for example, remaining above the mandated altitude–and safety alerts and be able to analyze flight parameters in real-time.
  • Behavior Analysis: The solution will leverage the IBM Watson IoT Driver Behavior API to monitor unusual behavior such as harsh acceleration, steep descent, speeding, sharp turn and more to quickly to determine when a drone goes off course.
  • Cognitive Image Analytics: In addition to drone behavior, Watson Cognitive Image Analytics APIs will allow drones to understand the contents of images. For example, a drone will be able to determine if an approaching object is another drone or a bird. With these insights, parties can take the right preemptive action and avoid potentially disastrous scenarios from occurring.

In other words, the same technologies that are allowing us to gain deep insights into just about anything, anywhere, are same ones that will serve as the traffic cop of the skies, bringing a new level of order.

  1. Gartner Says Almost 3 Million Personal and Commercial Drones Will Be Shipped in 2017


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May 22, 2017 at 10:08PM