Technology opportunities for the drones sector
On Wednesday 17 February we organized a DroneTalks workshop at Lambda-X, Verhaert’s innovation center in Nivelles. Curious about the learnings we gathered during this event on how to innovate successfully with drones? For instance, will the future commercial drone pilot be an on-board sensor-processor with dematerialized interface?
Limitations of the drone sector
Companies are looking to drones as a way to become more cost effective and to reduce logistics costs where human actions are involved. They focus on (semi-)automated drone flights to interpret images and data during surveying actions. However, legal limitations are a major drawback in starting business using drones.
Why does the law restrict the maximum fly height of drones to 100 meters? This condition will limit the deployment of applications in cities. But legal regulations are not the only aspects that are limiting the freedom of innovating with drones. You might feel like being caught in a bird cage, with all the hurdles and limitations, not able to find a winning value proposition within that frame. How can you relief this burden?
Technology trends and opportunities
The current ‘hardware’ market of the drones is very dynamic. A lot of players are making the market unstructured, with dominant multicopter design and low differentiation. What will happen with the drone capabilities in 5 or even 10 years? When we start envisioning new applications from a technology road map perspective we are all of a sudden relieved from today’s restrictions.
Autonomy, high precision optics and image processing
We can imagine a multitude of ‘technology enabled’ new applications. For example, by adding autonomous flying capabilities. Or by adding ultra-low weight high precision optics and on-board image processing. With facial recognition and 3D precise mapping the drone can scan a perimeter and detect contours of buildings and trees. The ‘sense and avoid’ function even allows the drone to manage obstacles.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
We can use Artificial Intelligence to add reasoning to our UAV application which will allow the drone to take autonomous decisions. The drone will interact with unforeseen incidents on his flight or start searching for physical stuff. The AI engine might even decide when and when not to inform people about its delay during a flight and manage the impact of this. Furthermore, AI can autonomously detect intruders, manage alarms and take actions to prevent further hazards.
Solar energy and bio-mimicry
High efficient solar panels or energy harvesting technology will enable to prolong flight distances. Another exciting question is how will bio-mimicry help in miniaturizing drones?
Technology product road map
How can you include new drone technologies in your technological road map? What process can you follow to map technical advances on new features carrying application value (existing or new ones)? This typical product development exercise leads to the definition of a product road map addressing market needs. Only then you can start thinking on how to further differentiate in this specific market to better attract customers.
We should reverse the technology question and ask ourselves which technology can serve some well identified applications. Drone systems can be able to:
- Inspect underground or sewer tunnels autonomously
- Resist harsh environments where humans are endangered like nuclear sites, iron melting, disasters …
- Inventory pallet storage sites and scan goods IDs, bar codes or NFC
- Assist policemen or firemen to enter a building as first, scan the situation, make measurements and locate humans
The future of drones seems to offer many possible, realistic and attractive applications, but how do you start with a successful selecting process? With which applications can you start to explore the possibilities of drones? These basic questions are relevant to everyone who wants to initiate a business with drones. With more than 45 years’ experience in launching new products, business and services, Verhaert can help you to innovate successfully.