Difference Between Autonomous Drones and Autonomous Software Platforms

The Real Difference Between Autonomous Drones and Autonomous Software Platforms: Adaptive Capability When It Counts

19 Oct 2021 Written by Sharon

Tower companies are bombarded with messaging about autonomous drones from both hardware and software providers. If autonomous drone hardware can launch, execute a flight plan around an asset, and land with minimal pilot intervention, what’s the difference in functionality between autonomous hardware and autonomous drone software platforms? Which one do you need to create digital twins of assets and get accurate business insights?

One major difference between autonomous hardware and autonomous software is in adaptive capability: the level to which a solution can dynamically adjust to the environment, reacting to the reality of an asset in the field to produce the best result.

What Can Autonomous Hardware Do?

Autonomous drones have reached new levels of capability in recent years, earning well-deserved attention in the unmanned industry. Autonomous hardware can improve safety outcomes and help bridge the gap between trained pilots and those with less experience. Autonomy in unmanned systems is a highly defined framework (for more information read this blog). Now, autonomous drones can sense and avoid obstacles during flight, making it easier for pilots of all skill levels to navigate through crowded and complex environments. They can land for battery changes and resume flight paths where they left off. Drone autonomy contributes to airspace safety and, in some cases, can help to gather more accurate data.

Autonomous hardware was designed to perform across a wide variety of verticals, however: in use cases that range from public safety and search and rescue to roof inspections and insurance evaluations. Autonomous hardware can adapt to surroundings to avoid crashing or to land safely in emergency situations, but hardware cannot adapt to the reality of complex field assets in order to plan the best 3D flight plan around them for precise data capture.

Adaptive Capability and the vHive Autonomous Drone Software Platform

In the tower industry, absolutely accurate data is imperative to produce precise digital twins of assets and get the insights required to solve specific business problems, such as inventory verification or site development. This level of accuracy demands an exact flight path and it requires contextual awareness – the ability to change a flight plan based on the reality of the asset in the field, even when that differs from the description in current records.

vHive’s auto-discovery feature, designed with a deep understanding of tower assets, enables this contextual awareness. Users can simply identify a few basic points of the asset as they find it in the field so that the drone can execute a perfect flight plan around that asset, delivering the precise data required for a digital twin that can be used for AI-powered and vertical-focused analysis. The software platform provides the required precision, but still offers one of the primary benefits of autonomy: it’s easy to use and doesn’t require significant input from the operator.

The Benefits of Drone Agnostic Software

The vHive platform is drone-agnostic: it enables autonomy in inexpensive and readily available commercial, off-the-shelf drones. Users are not tied to a single hardware vendor and can easily replace equipment or scale quickly across a global enterprise when required without worrying about hardware production issues or the availability of a specific model. New versions of hardware require significant time and manufacturing effort: but s autonomy evolves and customer needs shift to adapt to new situations, software can be updated far more quickly and easily.

Both autonomous hardware and autonomous software platforms may have a place in enterprise companies. For digitization, and the creation of digital twins, companies need more than obstacle avoidance and autonomy in a drone platform. The vHive autonomous drone software platform was designed with a deep understanding of the tower industry and tower assets, and has the powerful adaptive capability required to generate precise data, every time: regardless of the hardware used. Autonomous software provides functionality and flexibility that generates real value now – and forms the basis of a digital strategy that has the power to transform a global organization.

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