Toward drone autonomous flight – collision avoidance advances

Both government and private industry developments are helping to push us forward toward full drone autonomous flight capability.  Advances in technology and systems for collision avoidance are moving the drone industry closer to realizing full autonomous flight.

U.S. Government Project

On the government side, the U.S. government DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) recently presented its progress toward developing the capability for small autonomous drones.  In the above video, an update on the DARPA Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) Program is presented where was recently demonstrated that a commercial quadcopter platform could achieve 20-meters-per-second flight while carrying a full load of sensors and cameras.

The FLA program aims to develop and test algorithms that could reduce the amount of processing power, communications, and human intervention needed for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to accomplish low-level tasks, such as navigation around obstacles in a cluttered environment. If successful, FLA would reduce operator workload and stress and allow humans to focus on higher-level supervision of multiple formations of manned and unmanned platforms as part of a single system. Through this exploration, the program aims to develop and demonstrate the capability for small autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles to fly at speeds up to 20 m/s with no communication to the operator and without GPS.

The test in the above video was carried out at Joint Base Cape Cod / Otis Air National Guard Base.

Read more about the DARPA FLA Program

Intel Drone Tech

In private industry there have been several advancements in collision avoidance around the world, including Intel’s initiative that includes their RealSense technology.  In the below video, the Intel CEO talks at CES 2016 about the RealSense and demonstrates how a Typhoon H drone with the technology can follow a mountain bike rider through a course, while sensing and avoiding obstacles along the way, and intelligently adjusting in real-time whenever something fell in its path.

Watch video of Intel’s RealSense 3D cameras in action in an amazing forest fly-through.

Intel Corporation was part of a spectacular event call “Drone 100” where a new Gusiness World Record was obtained for the Most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) airborne simultaneously. …. learn more and watch the video

The  Yuneec Typhoon H six rotor drone has planned add-ons that include a high performance collision avoidance module based on Intel® RealSense™ Technology and an advanced IR camera module.

In the U.S. the move toward successful integration of drones into the National Airspace System will depend a lot on the development of systems with robust, comprehensive sense and avoid, collision avoidance, secure geo fencing, and command and control technologies.