As we move along in the first quarter, things are looking great for the commercial drone marketplace in 2017. New investments are pouring in, acquisitions and mergers are in full swing as the industry gets ready for the spectacular growth this year.
It is an international play for the technology and solution providers now as markets globally start to open up slowing. As things kick up in high gear it is not about the drones by themselves anymore but the ecosystem, support systems and technologies needed for mission management, safe UAS introduction into the national airspace and data handling as well as security.
We at ANRA Technologies call these “The 3 Pillars”
Pillar 1: Mission Management
The future lies in autonomous missions that can be powered using an operational platform like DroneOSS™ which enables quick inspections, surveys and enables secure data images and video footage capture of the target area or assets .
Missions need to be planned such that the flight plan eliminates/mitigates most risk factors and accounts for constraints such as airspace, weather, and performance characteristics. Mission management also entails real time flight planning, autonomous or manual missions, contingency operations, automated data collection, security and compliance.
Pillar 2: Traffic Management
As our skies fill up with drones, one of the must have attributes of the Unmanned Traffic Management System is that it should not require human operators to monitor every vehicle continuously since that is not a scalable architecture given the sheer number of unmanned assets that will be in our airspace over the next few years. The system should be capable of providing the human stakeholders the data to make strategic decisions related to mission management be it launch, execution, and termination of airspace operations. As an active collaborator and participant in the NASA UAS Traffic Management (UTM) project, ANRA is collaborating with NASA/FAA as well as other industry partners in defining the next generation unmanned traffic management solution frameworks and technologies.
ANRA is participating in most UTM project activities such as the NASA-FAA Research Transition Team (RTT). ANRA was one of the five companies including AMAZON and AIRMAP to participate in the first working group as part of this RTT effort. The focus of this effort is to test and evaluate the technologies that could be implemented as part of UTM in a collaborative fashion between NASA and the Industry. During the last round of RTT demonstrations, ANRA acted as one of the Unmanned Service Suppliers (USS) that in future would potentially manage traffic for operators, taking requests (or flight plans) and resolving conflict issues between operators before departure, as well as providing operators with terrain, weather, and surveillance and performance information.
Pillar 3: Data Management
This is going to be one of the big revenue generators for this industry. Once the data has been captured by the drones, it needs to be securely transferred, analyzed, processed, archived and shared with relevant stakeholders internal or external to the enterprise. Different verticals have different requirements for analytics such as such as generation of 3D Models, Orthomosaics, DSM, DEM, Thermal or Multi-spectral analysis and there is no one solution that fits all. In addition, it is not just the sensor data but the flight data that can down the line be used for understanding flight characteristics, patterns and for other kind of data mining. An open platform like DroneOSS™ can help pull in the right kind of analytics into the mix and allow the needed cloud based processing and archival and dissemination of the data.
As things move forward we as the industry will continue to innovative and adapt based on market and customer demands but in our opinion these three pillars will stay as the key guiding beacons.
Hey Did you forget security ?
Not at all! We consider security an integral part of all the three pillars and in the upcoming weeks we are going to talk more about the various mechanisms as well as considerations for creating a secure ecosystem for commercial drone operations and how it fits in with other initiatives as well as standards being defined for the Internet of Things (IoT) in general.