In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, learn about DJI’s AeroScope system, which acts as an "electronic license plate for drones," as well as the development of a UAS swarm infrastructure for the US military, and the integration of 3D Robotics' Site Scan UAS data platform with Autodesk BIM 360—a project management tool for virtual construction managers and field teams.
DJI develops ‘License Plates’ for UAS
DJI has developed the AeroScope system, which acts like an "electronic license plate for drones," and is designed to provide a dependable way for authorities to identify and monitor airborne UAS.
Using the existing communications radio transmission between a UAS and its remote controller, AeroScope helps authorities in responding to UAS flying near sensitive locations like airports or prisons. It also helps authorities when responding to complaints about UAS in other areas as well.
UAS can transmit information regarding their flights to any AeroScope receiver within radio range. This information includes, but is not limited to, a drone’s location, altitude, and an identifier such as a registration or serial number.
This stream of data acts as an electronic license plate for UAS, with real-time information about the drone’s flight being displayed on the AeroScope receiver.
Not only does this function work with DJI UAS, but it can also work with other manufacturers’ UAS without any hardware modifications. This information can be used by authorities to detect a drone’s presence, determine which UAS warrant more attention, and investigate UAS operations that raise concerns.
"AeroScope is designed to meet authorities’ legitimate needs concerning safety, security and privacy while also respecting the rights of people and businesses who use drones," says Brendan Schulman, DJI vice president of policy and legal affairs.
"DJI’s solution provides the information authorities need, while ensuring that flight data is only collected on the small number of drone flights that could raise concerns."
In addition to AeroScope, DJI has also developed a Knowledge Quiz, which requires new UAS pilots to pass a safety test before flying.
Through the Knowledge Quiz, it is required that UAS pilots correctly answer a series of basic questions about safe UAS use before conducting their first flight.
The questions will appear on DJI’s main flight app, DJI GO 4, which runs on smartphones and tablets connected to UAS remote controllers.
"The evidence shows the overwhelming majority of drone pilots fly safely and responsibly, thanks in part to a robust education effort led by aviation authorities as well as drone manufacturers and industry groups," says Jon Resnick, DJI policy lead.
"DJI sees the Knowledge Quiz as an extension of this effort, helping ensure drone pilots know basic safety rules. We are grateful to have collaborated with the FAA in designing the quiz to ensure pilots fly safely."
For its U.S. implementation, all DJI pilots will be presented with a list of nine questions. All of those questions must be answered correctly in order to be able to fly. Pilots can continue answering new questions until they successfully pass DJI’s Knowledge Quiz.
Teams of "swarm systems integrators" to develop UAS swarm infrastructure for US military
In an effort to help the U.S. military in urban combat, two teams of "swarm systems integrators" will look to develop a UAS swarm infrastructure, using funding from a multi-million-dollar contract that is part of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program.
The goal of the program is "to empower … troops with technology to control scores of unmanned air and ground vehicles at a time."
The two teams will be responsible for developing the system infrastructure and integrating the work of the "sprint" teams, which will focus on swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, physical experimentation and virtual environments.
The teams will be led by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon BBN, which is a key research and development arm of the Raytheon Company.
Julie A. Adams of OSU’s College of Engineering is a member of the team led by Raytheon BBN, and she is the only university-based principal investigator on either team.
"I specifically will work on swarm interaction grammar – how we take things like flanking or establishing a perimeter and create a system of translations that will allow someone to use those tactics," Adams explains.
"We want to be able to identify algorithms to go with the tactics and tie those things together, and also identify how operators interact with the use of a particular tactic."
Adams continues, "our focus is on the individuals who will be deployed with the swarms, and our intent is to develop enhanced interactive capabilities: speech, gestures, a head tilt, tactile interaction. If a person is receiving information from a swarm, he might have a belt that vibrates.
"We want to make the interaction immersive and more understandable for humans and enable them to interact with the swarm."
Adams, who is the associate director for deployed systems and policy at the college’s Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute, points out that last summer, China launched a record swarm of 119 fixed-wing UAS, but she also points out that right now, they "don’t have the infrastructure available for testing the capabilities of large swarms."
"Advances have been made with indoor systems, including accurately tracking individual swarm members and by using simulations," Adams says. "Those are good first steps but they don’t match what will happen in the real world. Those approaches allow for testing and validation of some system aspects but they don’t allow for full system validation."
The goal of the integrators is to make sure that operators can interact with the swarm as a whole, or subgroups of the swarm, as opposed to individual agents. Adams says that what the agents do as a whole is "much more interesting" than what they do individually, comparing a UAS swarm to a school of fish acting in unison in response to a predator.
"We’ve got these ‘primitives’" – basic actions a swarm can execute – "and we’ll map these primitives to algorithms for the individual agents in the swarm, and determine how humans can interact with the swarm based on all of these things," Adams says.
"We want to advance and accelerate enabling swarm technologies that focus on swarm autonomy and how humans can interact and team with the swarm."
Researchers envision swarms of more than 250 autonomous vehicles that can work together to gather information and help troops in "concrete canyon" surroundings, where buildings impair line-of-sight, satellite-based communication. Those vehicles would include multi-rotor UAS and ground rovers.
The information collected by the swarms could help keep U.S. troops safer, as well as civilians in the battle areas.
3D Robotics announces integration of its Site Scan with Autodesk BIM 360
3D Robotics (3DR) has announced the integration of its Site Scan UAS data platform for construction and engineering professionals with Autodesk BIM 360, which is a project management tool for virtual construction managers and field teams.
Made possible through the Autodesk Forge platform, this "one-of-a-kind partnership" makes it "easier than ever" for project managers, engineers, subcontractors, superintendents and other members of project teams to access UAS data, and use it in their day-to-day work.
"Now, project teams can have a single source of truth for their drone data and project files," says 3DR’s CEO Chris Anderson. "This will improve communication and quality control on-site, and simplify the ways our customers share and access drone data."
Through the integration of 3DR’s Site Scan with Autodesk BIM 360, three new capabilities will be available to Site Scan users.
First, users will be able "overlay up-to-date design files." This capability will allow users to pull their CAD and PDF design files from BIM 360 into Site Scan, and overlay them onto their orthomosaics, so that they can compare design to reality and identify mistakes. In the event that a design file changes in BIM 360, the design file will automatically update in Site Scan, which will in turn give users the confidence that they are viewing the most up-to-date overlays at all times.
Secondly, users will be able to share UAS data with their team, as they will be able to push their Site Scan UAS data, which can include orthomosaics, point clouds, and digital elevation models, into their BIM 360 account, so that they are easily accessible in tools such as Revit, BIM 360 Glue and Field, to name a few. Users will no longer have to spend time moving large files between each platform, as they will now be able to complete that process with a click in Site Scan.
Lastly, users will be able to solve problems in the field. If a user identifies a problem on their jobsite that needs to be fixed, they can create issues directly on their orthomosaic in Site Scan and push them to BIM 360 Field, which makes it easy to work with their field personnel and resolve issues quickly and effectively.
VDC Director at Paric—a company that provides a complete range of construction services— Andy Leek, speaks highly about Site Scan and the capabilities it provides.
"Site Scan makes it easy for us to collect and process accurate drone data," Leek explains.
"Now, with this BIM 360 integration, we can easily share it across our entire project team [and they] can get the full benefit this data provides. Site Scan has become the go-to drone data platform for BIM 360 users."