With “Drone in a Box,” UAVs Become Fully Autonomous
Imagine if your drone never needed to be piloted remotely or carted to a charging station or storage locker. Once fully programmed, it flew all of its missions on its own, without any hands-on support, and when needed, it re-charged and stored itself. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not just a fantasy. That’s exactly what a state-of-the-art “drone in a box” can do for you.
The concept has been around for a long time. If it hasn’t quite taken off, it’s because many drone operators, private and commercial, still rely on remotely piloted drones to ensure that their mapping or inspection needs are precisely tailored. It’s also a question of comfort zone – or even ego. Many drone owners insist on being – or at least, feeling — ”in charge” of their aircraft, whether they actually need to be to get the job done. And let’s face it: Many of us simply enjoy the experience of flying our favorite “toy.”
“Drone in a box” – DIB here, for short – makes human intervention in drone management largely redundant. The system features a ground station that functions as a storage locker, launching pad and charging station all rolled into one. At previously scheduled times, or triggered by a ground sensor, the box opens up and your pre-programmed drone takes off on its appointed rounds – surveying a property (a farm, a mine, an industrial site, or bridge perhaps), inspecting site conditions, taking stock and inventory, analyzing possible crop stress or contamination – whatever might be required. The drone’s visual data is then relayed back to a central processing center – also operating autonomously – which reviews and analyzes it and presents it in the form of charts and graphs, which are then relayed to the site owner and his team for review.
Having completed its job, the drone then returns to the ground station which opens its doors and puts the drone to bed for the night. It’s not hard to see why a fully autonomous “drone in a box” system would be in demand, especially on large commercial properties that might otherwise need a considerable amount of human labor to conduct the same tasks far more slowly and at considerable expense – and with the added workplace safety risks to boot.
But the DIB option isn’t cheap. Setting up a single ground station will cost you thousands. And then, there’s the added expense of pre-programming the drone for a variety of functions and automating the data collection and processing. Isn’t it just easier to fly the drone yourself when you need it – every month or so, perhaps – and reviewing the data yourself? For small commercial owners with limited needs, it could well be. And drones don’t necessarily capture everything by flying fully autonomously. Invariably, some direct observation and minor course corrections might be needed. Or a problem noted might need to be zeroed in on. And there’s drone maintenance, which will require hands-on intervention, too. But, of course, you didn’t really buy a drone to function autonomously any way, did you? It’s not a water sprinkler, or an automatic lighting system. Where’s the fun in watching the thing fly around all by itself?