Drone Technology and Robotics: The Emergence of Self-Flying Machines

Source: SkyX

Self-guided drone technology is an emerging asset for multiple industries.

The overburdened supply chain is a case in point. After operating beyond its limits for some time, the impacts of insufficient logistics capacity are still being felt globally. Against this backdrop, autonomous drone technology provides an innovative solution to achieve faster and more efficient transportation of goods.

Unmanned technology never tires. You can program it to operate with digital precision around the clock in a variety of different industrial applications. Let’s look at how this new technology improves upon current unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems. Further, what are the latest applications for these self-guided drones?

What Are Autonomous Mobile Robots?

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are widely used across sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture—and even in less obvious industries like banking. The technology has proven its efficacy in a variety of different grounded applications, but it has yet to be fully applied to aerial technology.

The current autonomous drone technology is conceptually simple. Fundamentally, AMRs differ from UAVs in that they are able to dynamically navigate their environment independently, without operator oversight. And although they may take predetermined pathways, they can sense and maneuver around unexpected obstacles en route. These drones are unlikely to encounter many obstacles when flying above 1,000 feet. Yet, they do need to be able to navigate dynamic objects when they get closer to the ground.

Drones can employ similar technology to their AMR counterparts. By using 3D localization, they’re able to adapt better to inaccuracies resulting from the added variables of air turbulence, GPS accuracy limitations, and noise in onboard sensors.

The aerial capabilities of this technology enable a direct flight from point to point. A 3D map is only necessary when the drone reaches an area with anthropomorphic elements. Moreover, autonomous drones conduct motion planning through simple search algorithms that allow them to navigate complex environments if necessary.

drone technology and robotics
Source: Shutterstock

What Counts as an Autonomous Drone?

Aerial drone technology enjoys a range of uses across a multitude of industries. E-commerce, farming, oil & gas, security, railways, and power lines all have monitoring, tracking, delivering, or reporting use cases for these systems. Of course, the various applications of this technology have generated different types of drones. Furthermore, recent advancements in technology have led to new classifications.

Now, let’s break down the categorical differences between a UAV, a UAS, and an autonomous drone.

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): This technology doesn’t require an onboard pilot. However, it’s still remotely controlled by a human—so the name may be something of a misnomer! Although UAVs are commonly used in both industrial and civilian cases, their most notable application is in the military context.
  • Unmanned Aerial System (UAS): The UAS comprises the entire system surrounding an unmanned drone. This includes elements such as communications, ground control stations, and the aircraft itself. Unmanned aerial systems may or may not require a remote human operator.
  • Autonomous Drone: All autonomous drones are UAVs, but not all UAVs are autonomous drones. An autonomous drone differs from a UAV in that it doesn’t require any human intervention to carry out its mission.

In the light of these examples, are the drones that carry out preprogrammed tasks actually autonomous? There’s a close connection between the future of drone technology and the development of artificial intelligence (AI). This addition will give it truly independent capabilities, such as the ability to detect and report flaws in architectural structures or automatically navigate unexpected obstacles.

The Potential Advantages of a Self-Guided Drone

Truly autonomous drone technology promises a wide range of improvements. Significant advantages include increased efficiency, access, and monitoring—all while reducing the amount of labor it takes to conduct certain operations.

Let’s go through some notable use cases for self-guided drones.

Commercial Drones

Commercial drones tend to be at the forefront of the public’s mind when they think about uses for autonomous drones. Restaurants, retail outlets, eCommerce sites, and grocery stores, to name just a few, will be able to use a fleet of intelligent drones to fulfill orders and deliver them directly to the customer’s address. This will have massive cost-saving benefits as well as reduce the number of polluting delivery vehicles on the road.

Autonomous mobile robots are the answer to managing many of our prospective logistical needs. Unmanned aerial vehicles aren’t up to delivering heavier payloads (yet). However, they are primed to take over from the fleets of vehicles currently delivering a multitude of eCommerce products.

In the near future, autonomous drone technology will be able to unclog city streets by eliminating thousands of trucks and vans from public roadways. Furthermore, they’ll speed up the automation of delivery systems while reducing delivery times through quicker and more direct routes.

Military Drones

The military will continue to find numerous uses for autonomous drones, including surveillance of inaccessible areas, thermal sensors for search and rescue, geographic mapping, and aerial photography. Military operations encompass an array of tasks, meaning that the full scope of drone technology will likely be incorporated into multiple areas.

Industrial Drones

Mining, energy, and manufacturing industries can use drones to conduct day-to-day operations and independently track machinery and installations. Oil and gas companies are already employing drone technology to monitor their pipelines for leaks. Here, early alerts enable tracking and mitigation measures to reduce the environmental impact of these activities.

Capabilities of Drone Technology and Robotics

These many use cases barely skim the surface of what drone technology is capable of. In the future, every organization, from forest services to insurance companies, will be able to make use of aerial site inspections, mapping, and monitoring.

Source: Shutterstock

Industries Will Need the Latest Aerial Tech

Autonomous drone technology is still in the early stages of implementation. However, as industry leaders develop drones and robotics for wider use, the potential of UAVs appears limitless.

SkyX is at the forefront of autonomous drone development, with innovative technology that makes them the leading provider of aerial data acquisition and analysis. They currently help oil and gas companies collect such data—all in a matter of hours—using long-range fixed-wing drones that take off vertically.

Find out how aerial technology, state-of-the-art data capture, and AI can produce the results your business needs. Book a demo with SkyX today.

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