Aerialtronics is a small company, only 35 employees, but has a major challenge to develop systems that could meet the requirements of a variety of industries without spreading its resources too thin between dozens of discrete designs. At the same time, Aerialtronics develops drones to be used by professionals. These professionals may encounter resistance by law or by local communities when providing their service through the use of drones. Early inclusion of the stakeholder environment in the design of drone platforms for various professional user groups may speed up the R&D activities and eventual market launch and implementation of the new drone application.
Before, Aerialtronics experienced setbacks in their drone development due to new insights they gained among stakeholders when they were testing their drone platforms. These insight led to re-design some specific elements of the drone, thereby increasing development cost, time to market and the eventual cost price of the drone. Being a small company, Aerialtronics has little slack to dedicate time sand resources to conducting extensive explorative studies on the repercussions of drone development. Despite their small resources base, Aerialtronics has appointed a legal officer to connect to different authorizes and liaise with them to better the implementation of new drone designs.
About the pilot
The pilot focuses on reviewing the implementation of a technology for sensing the direct environment of a drone and prevent it from colliding into other objects. The sensors give feedback to the drone operator and is a first step to make the drone more autonomous and interact it with regards to its environment.
The technology is called the Sense and Avoid system is a modular functionality for the Altura Zenith Unmanned Aircraft System. This innovative sense and avoid solution improves safety during the inspection of telecommunication towers, utility poles and oil rigs, particularly in windy conditions. The onboard ultrasonic technology helps the pilot to keep a safe distance from obstacles and increases the safety of their inspection. The sense and avoid solution comes as four plug-and-play sensor extensions which are simple to install.
The system is a precise measurement system that was developed in 2016 and is currently sold to clients. The first generation of the system informs the pilot about the location and distance and can intervene when the drone comes to close to certain objects. This semi-autonomous interaction is relevant, especially under windy conditions when a pilot needs more skills to operate a drone. The future generations will have higher levels of intervention and should allow the drone to take its own decisions regarding the tasks it needs to perform.
These new generations are currently being tested and simultaneously, Aaerialtronics is discussing with legal officers to see how it may help the implementation of autonomous drones in the future.
Objective of the pilot
As for the goal of the pilot project, Aerialtronics would like to develop a framework that can help the advancement of new technologies by identifying how and to what extent include various users and professionals in the technology development process in order to lower environmental impact and prevent the innovation process from possible delays. Having such a framework will help the monitoring of the role of various stakeholder groups during the stages of innovation and eventually should lead to lowering development costs and lower environmental impact.
More specific the project aims to better understand the role of stakeholder organizations in the development of the
Sense and Avoid system for drones. To some extent the implementation of the new technology may require changes in existing regulation with regards to flight control of drones.
With this pilot project, we hope for stakeholders, particularly those currently against the sue of autonomous drones, to be able to understand and give feedback. We will focus on users and stakeholders such as local communities and regional authorities. To develop a framework for inclusion of stakeholders in the development of new drone technology.