Autonomy is one of the hottest words in the drone industry, used to describe everything from obstacle avoidance to “drone-in-a-box” solutions designed to perform surveillance functions without human intervention. The benefit of autonomy depends upon the use case: for some missions, drones which can simply avoid an ignominious crash provide an advantage. In the tower industry, however, autonomy must be more sophisticated to provide real value to the customer.
Levels of autonomy for unmanned systems are strictly defined: in the U.S., the National Institute of Standards and Technology has developed a complex and detailed matrix for defining autonomous capabilities for unmanned systems. As the drone industry evolves and develops more autonomous capabilities, drone platforms continue to move up the autonomy ladder. At vHive, our autonomous drone platform can do more than simply avoid obstacles: our autonomous software is designed to provide our customers with consistent, accurate, and inexpensive data capture and intelligent insights regardless of where their assets or staff are located, enabling Tower Cos to get the most from digital twin technology.
Capturing useful drone data without autonomy requires that the drone operator have a high level of skill in multiple areas. Operating a drone accurately to follow the surface of an obstacle precisely and obtain high quality data requires a significant level of training and experience. Using conventional methods, capturing accurate data about tower assets also requires an understanding of the tower structures and of what components are important to stakeholders. For multinational companies, training and maintaining staff with both of those skillsets – and moving them around to field assets as required – is both difficult and expensive.
The vHive Autonomous Drone Inspection Platform ensures that tower companies get consistent, accurate data across their assets; without respect to the skill level of the individual pilot or the type of asset surveyed. vHive uses autonomy to develop the optimal flight path around an asset, that is adaptive and dynamic to the field limitations and then fly and land the drone without additional input from the operator. The software knows what data the customer will need, it plans the ideal flight, and it resumes the survey seamlessly after battery swap”. Machine-learning software can process the data, identifying problems specific to targeted industries and utilizing images to build precise 3D models of industrial structures.
Customers can use locally available pilots for drone flights and receive the same high-quality data from surveys performed by any pilot anywhere around the world. The sophisticated autonomy is in the platform, so customers can use easily available and inexpensive off the shelf drones and receive immediate valuable insights.
Using autonomy to plan accurate flight paths and capture data provides significant value to tower companies. The vHive platform requires very little training and experience, lowering the barriers to entry for drone inspection programs. Autonomous flight planning ensures consistency and quality, making drone-captured data reliable and repeatable. Lower costs for drones and pilots mean that surveys can be performed with greater frequency, which allows companies to realize greater value from their digital data and enables growth for drone programs across large organizations.
Autonomy for unmanned systems continues to evolve, and vHive is at the forefront of developing higher levels of autonomy to benefit our customers. For tower companies and other large enterprises, we understand that autonomy must simplify workflows and cut costs to provide return on investment. Whether customers choose to use their own local staff to gather data or utilize vHive’s field management services, it’s simple to get started and beginning realizing the benefits of autonomous inspections and digital twin technology. Contact us to see how easy capturing data with vHive autonomy can be.