What does the future of drones look like and how do we get there?

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘drone’? You may associate it with military strikes or with filming dramatic footage for a David Attenborough documentary; whatever your perception, drones are in the limelight and many of us are wondering how they will be utilised in the future. Will drones one day be an active part of your everyday life? How will drones impact the future of society as we know it?

Drones and wider robotic and autonomous systems offer huge potential to transform our world. They also bring challenges that need to be overcome to realise their potential. As a systems engineering and technology company, we are supporting organisations to realise this vision. In the infographic below, we have presented our vision of the future for drones (more technically referred to as Unmanned Aerial Systems or UAS). These cases are already being used across a number of sectors and are well developed within academia. 

 

Advancing Technology and Society

We are already seeing a hugely diverse spread of ways in which drones are helping everyday society. There are clear trends that show drones are helping society, whether reducing the need to work at height, increasing the performance of our transport networks or aiding search and rescue operations.

This is all well and good but how are drones utilising advancements in technology to benefit society? Drone platforms have changed dramatically over the years due to the evolution of mobile technology such as batteries, micro-processors and artificial intelligence (AI) and we will see similar technology development in this new decade. We are increasingly seeing use of hybrid systems that encompass vertical take-off and landing capability (VTOL) – used by Amazon as part of its Prime delivery network (Amazon Prime Air). Autonomy will provide increased potential to augment rather than remove humans, allowing one operator to monitor multiple systems at once. Drones will also increasingly interface with autonomous ships and driverless cars, providing a data feed to support traffic management.

Additionally, AI will enable detect and avoid systems to function effectively without human input, allowing commonplace Beyond Visual Line of Sight operation. The question of how drones will integrate with other airspace users will see increasing attention in coming years meaning there will be increasing need for an effective unified traffic management network in our skies. A key trigger to this will be the introduction of air taxis, which Uber suggest will exist by 2025 (NBC, 2019).

 

Forward to the future

These exciting opportunities are only the start. As an industry, we must enable cross sector communication and ensure that good systems engineering practice is applied to manage the interfaces between the increasingly complex systems being developed. As a company, we are excited about what this decade will bring for the drone industry, and look forward to playing our role in #dronesforgood.

 

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