Despite increasingly popular uses of drones in the civilian sectors, most drones are typically controlled by human operators, using remote controllers. Piloting a drone is intrinsically difficult for human. Manual controls not only incur inefficiency and inconvenience, but also are vulnerable to human errors. Often, intensive trainings for drone piloting are required in advance, which are usually expensive and laborious. On the other hand, improper human controls will cause drone crashes and damages. There are many repetitive routine missions that are more suitably carried out by drones, and hence, it is desirable to dispense with human controls.
In this work, we develop a working prototype, called IntelliDrones, which is a fully automated intelligent management system for drone fleet. It is designed for a sizeable fleet of drones, which can be applied in a wide range of applications of drone delivery and remote missions. In summary, IntelliDrones system supports the following features:
1) Automatic flight path planning and optimization according to users’ specified goals.
2) Real-time flight path tracking and re-computation in dynamic environments.
3) Wireless inductive charging integration to support autonomous recharging by drones.
4) Recharge scheduling and optimization to maximize battery life.
One of the applications of IntelliDrones system is for remote surveillance operations by utility providers. We partner with DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) to deploy automated drone fleet management. There are multiple geographically diverse facilities to be monitored by DEWA, such as solar farm, electricity transmission and distribution networks, and remote electricity substations. Drones are convenient solutions for unmanned missions in potentially risky or hazardous regions, in particular, for taking measurements in high-altitude or high-voltage environments for electricity utility companies. A major feature of IntelliDrones system is to support automated routine surveillance by drones.
Another application of IntelliDrones system is for delivery. Drones are effective in solving the last-leg problem of the distribution chain from depots to homes of end-users. Drones can provide alternative routes of delivery in urban settings as well as a short-cut to infrastructure for developing regions. A recent study by Amazon reports that the last-legs of most deliveries are within 5 miles from the depots, which are practical to employ drone delivery. Delivery companies can employ IntelliDrones system to schedule and plan the delivery operations by drones.