The How and Why of Using Drones for Search and Rescue Operations?
Drones provide unique capabilities that are leveraged by emergency service providers all over the world. They are already saving thousands of lives through participation in various public emergency and safety operations.
The 2020 COVID pandemic has accelerated the adoption of drones for public safety. When humanity was facing a worldwide lockdown, authorities in India used drones to monitor cities and enforce social distancing norms. Read the full case study on how an Indian startup helped authorities in the state of Gujarat to use drones via the country’s first drone command center.
When it comes to public safety, drones are used in a variety of use cases. But there is this one use case that catches peoples’ attention since the benefits are pretty straightforward. The use case we are talking about is search and rescue.
What is search and rescue?
Search and rescue (SAR) is a subset of public safety operations and involves activities revolving around finding missing people. It generally comes under the purview of the fire department in most countries. In the US, private SAR teams also exist; for example, Texas EquuSearch is a not for profit organization dedicated to search and rescue operations.
In 2019, a hiker got trapped on a ledge somewhere in the Snowy Canyon State Park, Utah. The mountain search and rescue operation happened at night using drones. SAR drones were used as a light source by the rescue team to locate the hiker. Similar to this, there are thousands of stories of how drones helped save precious lives.
Advantages of Drones for Search and Rescue (SAR)
Search and rescue operations are fairly difficult and unpredictable, unlike other public safety operations. These two factors play an important role in the overall outcome of a SAR mission:
- Time: In most SAR missions, the missing person is trapped in a life-threatening situation, where the person has less time. So it becomes important for rescuers to find the person at the earliest.
- Terrain: SAR missions outside human establishments can face challenging terrain in the form of a snowy mountain, rainforest, etc. which might slow the entire operation.
Here are some of the reasons why SAR teams, all over the world, are using drones to overcome challenges in their work:
- Drones are fast: Compared to ground-based vehicles, drones can reach a location a lot faster; even reach inaccessible places. For example, in the Czech Republic, there is an agency called the Mountain Rescue Service of the Czech Republic that uses drones to find missing people trapped by an avalanche.
- Situational awareness: Drones provide cheap, fast access to aerial data of a large area. This allows responders to map the entire search zone and pinpoint possible places where the missing person might be trapped.
- Detect and identify: Drones can carry different sensors that can be used for identifying ground objects. In the next section, we will discuss in detail how these sensors are used.
- Communication: A drone, carrying a loudspeaker, can repeatedly broadcast a message making the missing person aware that people are looking for him/her.
How drones are used during search and rescue missions
The real power that drones provide to rescue operators is the easy access to aerial data of a large area, which gives the rescue team the ability to expedite the process of finding a missing person, where every second count.
What kind of data is useful in a search and rescue mission?
Drones can carry different types of payloads that can be used in different situations. Two of the popular payloads are the 4K wide-angle camera and the thermal camera that are extensively used during search and rescue missions.
HD video from a drone is not that useful in a search and rescue mission, since the resolution is lost when looking at a still image. On the other hand, a high resolution still image can provide valuable information to the people on the ground looking for the missing person. This is why cameras that can capture high resolution still images are preferred.
Thermal cameras are also used in search and rescue missions, especially during night time missions.
What is a thermal/IR camera?
A thermal/IR camera is a sensor that can detect a small section of electromagnetic waves called infrared. These are not part of the visible light that we can see.
Anything that has mass emits infrared radiation that can be captured using a thermal camera. The camera shows the image in different shades of color or grayscale to denote varying degrees of temperatures.
How thermal cameras are used in search and rescue missions?
In the year 2019, an 88-year-old man from Brownsville, Texas went missing on a Monday evening after leaving his home. When the family of the man informed the police about the disappearance, a local search and rescue team was formed with help from the police and fire department.
It was not until late at night that a local drone operator was involved. Around 11 PM, drone operator Desi Tristan spotted the old man near a field in tall grass. The drone operator was scanning the area with a drone equipped with a thermal camera. The old man, identified as Luis Reyna Zuniga, suffered from an unspecified medical condition that led to this incident.
Read More: How Are Drones Used in Forest Fires?
Here are some popular drones used for search and rescue missions
A thermal camera is a pivotal part of any aerial search and rescue mission. Drones that can carry a thermal sensor and can fly for a considerable amount of time are preferred for such operations. Here are some popular models from DJI that are extensively used for public safety operations.
- DJI Inspire series with the FLIR XT or XT2 thermal camera.
- DJI Matrice M210
- DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual with FLIR thermal sensor.
- DJI M300 RTK
- Parrot ANAFI Thermal
How FlytNow enhances the capabilities of drones (UAVs) in search and rescue missions
FlytNow is a cloud-based drone fleet management system that provides a unified dashboard to control multiple drones along with the live streaming of video and telemetry data.
What problem does FlytNow solve?
The traditional use of manually operated drones during a search and rescue mission hinders the sharing of drone data among different agencies (fire, police, and EMS) and thus making collaboration difficult. The problem compounds when using multiple drones flown by multiple pilots. This is where FlytNow comes as a cloud solution that connects ground pilots with a web-based dashboard that aggregates all that data, making sharing of data easy, and provides a command center to manage all the drones. The below illustration shows how the solution works.
How drones are connected to FlytNow?
FlytNow supports the popular DJI drones as well as custom drones based on PX4 and Ardupilot.
Connecting a DJI drone is easy. First, download the FlytNow mobile app and connect the mobile with the RC. The mobile connects the drone with the cloud application, allowing it to stream live data and video.
Connecting a custom drone requires a Single Board Computer (SBC) with the FlytOS operating system connected to the flight controller of the drone. The SBC establishes a connection between the drone and FlytNow via the internet over a WiFi or 4G/LTE/5G module.
Establish a command center using FlytNow Business
FlytNow Business is a standard offering that comes with useful features, for search and rescue missions, out of the box. The solution is suitable for setting up a command center to manage multiple drones during a search and rescue mission, which would yield some of the following benefits:
- Members of the search and rescue team can access the drone data from their laptops or tablets since FlytNow provides a web-based dashboard over the cloud.
- The dashboard comes with an advanced mission planner that can be used to automate the drones. Using this feature, a public safety officer can define the flight-path of the drones thus ensuring that a particular area is properly covered.
- A drone pilot can broadcast live drone footage to multiple agencies and individuals having access to the dashboard.
- FlytNow Business supports live video streaming from a thermal drone. The feed is further enhanced with the support of MSX (shows thermal images with sharp contrast and edges) and multiple color palettes including the popular isotherms. Using these features, an operator sitting at the dashboard can effectively analyze the video feeds from multiple thermal drones and locate the missing person(s) a lot faster.
- FlytNow Business supports a variety of payloads including the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise & DJI M210/M300 RTK payloads. This makes the solution versatile, which can be used in a variety of situations.
FlytNow Enterprise for a fully automated drone-based response system
FlytNow Enterprise is a customizable solution that has all the features of FlytNow Business plus additional features. The solution is ideal for establishing a drone-based response system that is integrated with computer-aided dispatch systems like 911 and a network of drone stations, powered by Drone-in-a-Box technology.
A response system like this would have the following capabilities:
- An incoming emergency alert from a dispatch system like 911 can be routed to the FlytNow dashboard from where first responders can request a drone recon. This is possible because of the robust APIs of FlytNow Enterprise.
- The response system can automatically dispatch a drone from a nearby drone station on request. The Enterprise version has extensive support for popular Drone–in-a-Box and charging pad solutions.
- A drone can fly autonomously to an emergency location thanks to BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) capabilities of the Enterprise version and integration with UTM service providers like Airmap, Attitude Angel, etc..
- During a mission, a drone can quickly perform a perimeter check and find people in distress with AI features like object detection. The drone can even land on top of a marked location using the precision landing feature.
- Running a system like this would require data collection at a massive scale for compliance purposes. The Enterprise version has native integration with DroneLogbook that helps in recording and managing flight data and can generate automated reports for
In this blog, we discussed the reasons why drones are a popular tool of choice in search and rescue missions, and how they are used. We also touched upon a few popular drones and payloads that are suitable for search and rescue operations. Finally, we ended by discussing how FlytNow as a solution enhances the capabilities of drones for public safety operations.
Time to switch to a better way to handle drones. Try FlytNow for 28 days free of cost
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: How are drones changing search and rescue?
A: Time is of the essence in a search and rescue mission. Drones allow SAR teams to scan a large area fast, which turns the odds in their favor for a timely rescue.
Q: Will fleets of drones be the future of search and rescue?
A: Yes! Drones have already become an important part of public safety operations, because of their capabilities. Search and rescue is a subset of public safety operations.
Q: Will drones be useful in avalanche search and rescue tasks?
A: Drones are already being used in avalanches for searching missing people. In the Czech Republic, there is a nationwide agency called the Mountain Rescue Service of the Czech Republic that actively participates in rescuing people trapped by an avalanche. They rely on a response system based on a network of drones.
Q: What are the benefits of drones in search and rescue?
A: Drones provide cheap and fast access to aerial data, which allows responders on the ground to scan a large area in less time. Thus increasing the odds of finding the missing person in time.
Securely Share Live Drone Video Feed with Team and Clients
FlytNow Guest Link Sharing offers the capability to share live drone video feed and telemetry with teammates and clients.
Scroll down for the step-by-step tutorial.
Remote Private Access to Drone Fleet, Live Video Feed & Telemetry
Enterprises worldwide are scaling their drone operations, as cost-effective drones become available off-the-shelf, and cloud-based SaaS solutions drive intelligent automation. One of the key drivers of drone fleet adoption is the ability for a variety of stakeholders to participate in drone missions.
For example, an inspection of a wind turbine may involve on-site visual observers, remote subject-matter experts, safety managers from regional offices, R&D teams from corporate offices, technology partners - and even UAV regulators who seek insights into such missions before granting waivers for unmanned flights.
Live, remote drone operations thus require not only low-latency, high-quality video feeds, but also the ability to seamlessly share such video streams across people, geographies, devices, and networks.
In fact, enterprise drone programs tend to involve a variety of drone hardware - including off-the-shelf drones like DJI Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Enterprise, Matrice 210/210RTK, M600 Pro, etc., for day-to-day operations and custom drones built using DJI A3, Pixhawk or Cube based autopilots with high-end sensors for rare but critical use-cases.
User-level Access to Drone Missions
Given that privacy and security remain amongst the top concerns in the global drone ecosystem, enterprises have to carefully manage access to drone telemetry, live video streams, navigation, and payloads.
With multiple, remote participants in each mission, fine-grained access - based on the roles and responsibilities of each participant - becomes central to successful drone operations.
Guest Link Sharing
It can be argued that many drone operations would be significantly more productive if secure, mission-wise remote viewing can be made available, over the Internet, via a user-friendly interface.
Whether it’s a drone service provider monitoring construction sites or whether it’s the in-house drone operations manager supporting his/her colleagues for inspection of infrastructure assets, the access to live video streams - securely & remotely - can create immediate business value by enabling subject-matter experts to make better-informed decisions.
In fact, not only can remote viewers be empowered to access live video feeds in real-time, but remote operators can be given control of the drone, camera gimbal and payloads, with the on-site team serving as safety pilots and visual observers.
Automating such live, remote drone operations then becomes the logical next step in the evolution and maturing of enterprise drone programs.
Drone Videos on Mobile Phones
Given the pervasiveness of mobile phones and tablets across businesses in all sectors, it is but natural for drone mission participants to expect these devices to be an integral part of the overall system.
This is now easily possible via enterprise-grade mobile apps that can be easily customized, white-labeled and configured - making drone telemetry & videos extremely portable, especially in areas with robust 4G/LTE/5G networks.
Share Live Map Views, Drone Fleet Location, and other Mission-critical Data
Remote access for ‘guest’ participants in drone missions need not be limited to video - since live map views can also be seamlessly shared over the cloud, showing guest viewers the waypoints, flight paths, obstacles, etc. for each mission.
Third-party maps can be integrated to overlay drone missions on satellite imagery, specific drones/payloads can provide IR/thermal camera views to remote stakeholders, and missions such as parcel delivery can be remotely monitored not only over the last-mile but all the way to the ‘doorstep’.
Aerial video streaming is thus becoming the core of drone operations for operators, service providers, system integrators and large enterprises - with secure, user-level access for remote participants the ‘killer app’ of this technology.
Tutorial: How to share live drone video feed and map view using FlytNow
Step 2: Click on the “Share” icon on the video box or button in the Cockpit view
Step 3: Click on “Create new link” to generate a link
Step 4: Enter your teammate’s or client’s valid email address with whom you wish to share video & map view and click “Send”
- Choose appropriate options for view and drone access.
- You may enter multiple email addresses
Step 5: Teammate or Client receives an email with a link and Secure PIN
Step 6: Click on the “View Operation” and enter the Secure Pin. Your teammate or client can now securely access live drone feed and telemetry.
For any questions, you may write to us at email@example.com
How do I Deploy Commercial Drones Easily & Quickly?
FlytBase offers a 28-day free trial for users to explore the FlytNow Pro edition. Customers can add their drone fleets, fly them autonomously, create flight plans & coordinate missions, set geo-fence and checklists, view and store live video footage and integrate drone operations into an existing system.
BVLOS Inspections of Solar Farms Using Modular Drone Docks in Japan
Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, AfterFit is an electric power company specializing in green electricity generation, transmission, and sale. Since inception, they have been on the mission to accelerate the shift to renewable energy.
Although increasing the number of renewable energy power plants is difficult due to the land constraints, AfterFIT has been scouring Japan's landscape using satellite data, automated drones, and AI tech to find the most viable locations for renewable energy production.
With the in-house expertise to handle everything from power plant development to power supply, maintenance, and asset management, they are well-equipped to offer comprehensive solutions and provide decarbonized energy without incurring the conventional cost increases. In addition to 25 domestic bases, they have recently expanded into Vietnam and Indonesia.
The Hurdles AfterFit had to Overcome
The challenges in Japan are two-fold:
- Workforce Scarcity & Capital Intensive:
The rise in Japan's elderly population has had a significant impact on the availability of personnel across all industries. AfterFIT, for example, is experiencing a shortage of chief electrical engineers for power plant maintenance and management as it expands to a new location.
They need not only labor-saving measures to accommodate an ageing population, but they also need to invest heavily in round-trip transportation of staff members to and from the site. They also needed to ensure that two technicians are available within two hours of a mishap.Furthermore, with the end of the feed-in tariff (FIT) for photovoltaic power generation in March 2032, additional cost reductions are critical.
- Copper wire Thefts:
Thefts have become a common occurrence in Japanese power plants in recent years, with several thefts reported each year at the same power plant, resulting in significant losses.
Copper wire theft is a distinct problem that not only increases the immediate cost of the replacement but also reduces the amount of electricity generated because the time required to complete the repair or replacement increases. This necessitates countermeasures to keep them from happening.
Drones for Solar Farm Inspection: How it all started
In response to these challenges, AfterFIT began using drones in an effort to "solve green power difficulties with technology". With over 50 qualified pilots spread across 25 domestic bases, AfterFIT has been using drones for conducting surveys required for solar power plant inspection, construction, and design.
An in-house application software for autonomous navigation has also been developed to enhance productivity through AI analysis of acquired photos.
Drones helped them in reducing the time required to inspect a MW from 3 hours to less than 10 minutes.
The process became more efficient, saving time and resources, but the labour shortage remained.
Solution: Modular DiaB systems to the rescue!
As a solution to the labour shortage, companies in Japan have developed and used a dedicated drone for power plant maintenance and inspection.
The system including the charging port, costed around 10 million yen, posing a cost-effectiveness barrier to practical use.However, AfterFIT was one of the first renewable energy companies to put a modular automated drone docking station into practical use at the power plant (1,924KW) in Tochigi Prefecture
Without any operator or assistance on-site, AfterFit was able to conduct a level 3 (non-visual, no assistant) BVLOS solar panel inspection using Drones.
By utilizing commercially available off-the-shelf drones manufactured by DJI, the world's largest drone manufacturer, and a compatible Drone Nest by Heisha, AfterFIT was able to reduce the cost of equipment and operations by more than half.
With FlytNow Auto software, they were able to carry out all operations remotely from the Tokyo headquarters, which was about 200 kilometers away from Tochigi Prefecture. The intelligent & reliable precision landing module provided by the software ensured the drone landed on the docking station, every single time.
The drones could fly autonomously along a predetermined route, inspect solar panels, and live stream infrared video feed and images back to the command centre.
Each inspection takes about 20 minutes, and charging takes about 60 minutes. Its applications also include security monitoring systems, in which the drone can fly to a suspected anomaly and provide sufficient warnings to both management and any potential intruder. In addition, AfterFIT created an AI-based system in-house to generate power plant anomaly reports.
Following the completion of the demonstration experiment at the company-managed power plant, AfterFIT intends to expand its drone station operations to a non-company-managed power plant.
In addition to the labour & cost-saving, the deployment of fully automated drone docking stations has the benefit of boosting flight frequency, which saves money in the long run.While previously, solar power plants were only inspected four times a year; drone nests have, however, made it possible to inspect more frequently.
Weather events, such as typhoons or severe rain, might generate irregularities in energy production that can be discovered more quickly and efficiently.AfterFIT has been able to deliver lower-cost maintenance services of higher quality by offering these advantages to the company's whole customer base.
Drone Docking Stations are Here to Stay!
With such incredible benefits in the renewable sector, DiaB systems are unmistakably on their way to taking the world by storm. Watch this video by Yuji Kuwamizu as he walks us through NestGen’22 Keynote:
We, too, are excited to see how the integration of automation and drones will make processes, productivity, and production more efficient, faster, and larger as it pervades practically every industry!
Share Live Drone Video & Telemetry With Customers & Partners
Drone service providers and enterprise drone program managers can now securely share remote drone operations data while restricting drone control to only a selected set of stakeholders. This is made possible by the latest enhancement to FlytNow, a SaaS offering designed to automate, simplify and rapidly scale drone missions.
Drone operations managers increasingly monitor their drone operations remotely from a centralized control room - while pilots and visual observers deploy and oversee drone fleets on-site. Such missions also involve subject-matter experts, senior management, technology or domain consultants, regulatory authorities, solution partners and other third parties.
Providing the right level of live, remote access to various participants is key to maximizing the productivity, cost-effectiveness, and utilization of drone fleets, while ensuring that mission control remains secure and restricted to only a few, authorized users. This is now possible via guest link sharing in FlytNow, whose users can quickly and seamlessly share the live map view as well as HD video feeds of their drone missions with decision makers across the world.
Third-party access is the latest addition to FlytNow’ capabilities which include connectivity and control over 4G/LTE/5G, live HD video feeds, fleet management, unlimited missions and unlimited drone registrations, remote gimbal control, pre-flight checklist and geofence, mission planner, cockpit views, and more.
Live map & video sharing can enable security directors to better manage intrusion incidents, public safety chiefs to better direct emergency response, maintenance managers to better direct asset monitoring missions, utility infrastructure inspectors to better analyze power lines and wind turbines, project managers and investors to better monitor construction projects, and insurance appraisers to better assess disaster-related damages.
Nitin Gupta, FlytBase CEO, commented, “With this enhancement, the live remote drone operations capability of FlytNow is now extended to our customers’ customers. Access to telemetry and video data can be customized via FlytNow, so as to strike the right balance between broad stakeholder participation on one hand, and privacy and security on the other hand. Our goal at FlytBase remains to empower our users to automate and scale professional drone operations, and use drone data to make timely, better informed decisions.”
For a free trial, visit https://flytnow.com/ and get started in 5 easy steps - no credit card required.
FlytBase is an enterprise drone automation company with technology that automates and scales drone applications. The software enables easy deployment of intelligent drone fleets seamlessly integrated with cloud-based business applications. FlytBase technology is compatible with all major drone and hardware platforms. With IoT architecture, enterprise-grade security and reliability, the platform suits a variety of commercial drone use-cases, powered by Autonomy.
Enhance Night-time Surveillance with Thermal Imaging Drones
Drone technology has witnessed a rapid maturity curve - with regards to not only hardware and software technology but also the use cases across industries and sectors. Consumer drones have gone past the typical use in film production and recreational uses.
These prosumer off-the-shelf drones are now solving complex business problems - for example, in logistics, drones are being deployed to do last-mile delivery, managing inventory, and conducting security patrols.
In this blog, we will specifically focus on thermal imaging drones and the related use cases. Let’s start with an introduction to thermal imaging, understand how it works and how it might be used, via different drones and cameras, for commercial applications.
Need for Thermal Imaging
The ability to let people visualize what their eyes cannot, have led to the popularity of thermal cameras for conducting inspections and patrols.
Owing to the invisible heat radiations emitted or reflected by all objects, such cameras record and produce an image of any object having a temperature above zero without the need for visible light. The hotter the object, the brighter it will appear in the thermal image (you can choose the color pallet accordingly).
Such differences in temperature of the objects under observation are then represented in different colors. Generally, blue shades are used to represent colder objects, while red shades are used to represent hotter ones.
Thermal imaging has therefore been known to offer superior protection in demanding conditions. Some of the prime benefits include:
- Ability to remove blind spots
- Capture data in low-light or at night time
- Examine inaccessible areas
- Ability to see-through camouflaging foliage
Recommended Thermal Cameras for Drones
Drones with thermal cameras have resulted in unparalleled flexibility for many businesses that require constant protection against potential intruders.
Adding a thermal camera as a payload, allows operators to view thermograms in real-time, with the ability to immediately identify objects from the radiation emitted.
Some of the key factors to take into consideration while choosing an appropriate payload aligned for business include:
- Is the camera radiometric or non-radiometric? A radiometric camera provides a temperature reading along with the thermal image.
- Does the camera come with a gimbal or a fixed mount? A camera with a gimbal offers greater control to the operator over the camera movement.
Here are some recommended payloads:
Popular Drones used for Thermal Imaging
Apart from having a fast turn-around time, drones are pocket-friendly as compared to installing thermographic cameras at several locations in the property with a higher possibility of blind spots. Some of the cost-effective drones that could quickly cover the entire facility and be used 24x7 for monitoring include:
Use Cases of Thermal Imaging Drones
Aerial imagery is the primary application of commercial drones; with a thermographic camera, drones can further add value for various enterprise applications.
Thermal drones were also used to identify people defying lockdown rules or social distancing guidelines imposed by many countries especially at night.
Why use FlytNow for Automated Night Surveillance
FlytNow Enterprise for Security and Surveillance enables drone operators, service providers, and enterprises to remotely operate a fleet of thermal drones.An ideal solution due to the following capabilities:
1. FlytNow provides geofencing and intelligent waypoint design that a security service provider can use to schedule patrols. The geofencing feature creates a virtual boundary for your drones. The platform allows the creation of unlimited flight plans and streaming of live telemetry to further aid such operations.
2. The cloud-based platform provides live, low-latency streaming of thermal video from multiple drones on a single dashboard, which can be used to inspect a structure or situation from multiple angles and viewpoints.
3. An operator can remotely control the camera gimbal of drones connected to the FlytNow system, and thus effectively track different objects on the ground. With the AI detection feature, FlytNow allows the auto-identification of objects and humans.
4. With FlytNow, one can share a live video feed with anyone using an URL, including the map view. This way, a FlytNow user can share his screen with someone who doesn’t use the platform.
5. FlytNow provides integration with Airmap and DroneLogbook so users can scale their BVLOS flights.
6. FlytNow integrates with Skysense charging pads so users can completely automate the launch, operate, and docking cycle of a drone. It also supports precision landing so drones can land on charging pads.
Here is an illustration of what drones with thermal imaging working at scale might look like.
To get started with FlytNow visit: https://docs.flytnow.com/getting-started/dashboardor contact us at https://flytnow.com/contact/
Multi-Cam Drone Video Footage for Security, Inspections & Public Safety
Drones with cameras have both commercial and recreational applications. For commercial use-cases, the ability to live stream videos, with low latency, is crucial for the effective use of drones.
This enables enterprise stakeholders to see things happening far away, in near-real-time, from a bird’s eye view. Many industries, sectors, and use-cases can leverage such remote drone operations, for example:
- Search & rescue
- Surveillance and security
- Monitoring and inspection
- Public safety
A cloud-connected, user-friendly solution can thus be leveraged by drone operators, specialized service providers, UAV system integrators and enterprise drone program managers.
Multi-Camera Streaming via FlytNow
The capability to stream videos from multiple drones, simultaneously, is now available in FlytNow, the remote drone operations solution from FlytBase. Multiple camera (‘Multi-Cam’) streams can be viewed from a single operator dashboard, which can also be used to control multiple drones, their payloads, camera gimbals, etc.
Top 3 Use Cases of Multi-Cam Streaming
While there are numerous commercial applications that can benefit from drone fleets and multiple-camera streaming capabilities, these 3 seem to be gaining the most traction.
Security & Surveillance
Automated drone patrols are at the heart of surveillance of residential, commercial, and industrial premises. With the FlytNow multi-cam feature, surveillance drone operators can cover large areas from a single dashboard; it allows them to gain situational awareness during a security breach, with the added advantage of images & drone video surveillance from different angles.
Security stakeholders can combine different views (eg. thermal and normal camera feeds) and be much more effective during night time, low visibility conditions, etc.
Drones are used to inspect infrastructural and other valuable assets that are remote, hard to reach, or massive in size. With FlytNow, inspection personnel can view such assets from multiple angles, with the videos streamed in real-time, from multiple drones, to a single dashboard in the command center or control room.
This ability is useful in a range of remote inspection activities such as structural inspections, wind turbine inspections, cell tower inspections, oil & gas refinery inspections, and pipeline inspections.
Large structures under construction require to be inspected quite regularly - this includes visual observations of foundations, roofs, and key structural components. The inspection data provide insights into the overall condition, progress, and maintenance needs of such properties.
The traditional way of inspecting, which involved manual inspection of only some of the areas of a large structure, is severely lacking - not only in coverage but also in terms of safety.
Drone footage, on the other hand, can both improve coverage, reduce inspection time, and eliminate almost all safety concerns. Drone fleets powered by FlytNow can give stakeholders automated aerial views, from multiple angles, of important but hard-to-reach structural locations.
Wind Turbine Inspections
Periodic inspections are an important part of the maintenance programs of wind-turbine sites, so as to maintain their efficiency, safety, and longevity. It’s important to check the structural integrity of the blades, since different parts expand and contract differently under varying climatic conditions. Blades are also subject to damage from dirt, birds, snow, ice, etc.
Here, drones are now being used to rapidly, safely, and quickly scan the different parts of a wind turbine with highly calibrated IR sensors and high-resolution cameras.
With FlytNow Enterprise, an inspector can capture different aerial views of a blade, control the camera gimbal remotely, and maintain a safe distance automatically.
Cell Tower Inspections
Cell towers are tall structures that need periodic inspections to keep them operational and safe. Drone-based inspections can help significantly reduce the amount of time that people have to spend on a tower for such inspections.
Safety, speed, and cost are all factors in making remote aerial inspections more amenable for broad adoption.
Using FlytNow, live streams from drone fleets can be delivered to a single dashboard; these videos can then be shared with guest users, regulators and other stakeholders in cell tower inspections.
Refinery and Pipeline Inspections
Drones are being designed and deployed for corrosion detection, analysis of cracks, spillage, and leak detection in oil and gas refineries and along long-distance pipelines.
The information gathered by drone fleets can be invaluable for maintenance and planning at these complex facilities, with billions of dollars of infrastructure at stake.
The speed with which inspection data is gathered can be drastically improved using multiple, autonomous drones, powered by multi-cam streaming available via FlytNow.
The biggest risk in public safety is to first responders, who have to be on-site without timely situational awareness. They also have to deploy fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and other equipment - without first being able to assess the situation.
US-based technology company Phirst Technologies, which focuses on public safety solutions, has integrated autonomous drones into the CAD system that supports the 911 service.
The idea is to dispatch drones from a unified dashboard to assess a situation before sending human responders. The solution is called FIRST iZ, and they are using FlytBase technology to power their drone automation.
Drones thus offer a compelling capability for incident response - public safety authorities can deploy them first, gain real-time awareness, and make better-informed decisions about people and equipment deployments.
Search and Rescue
Drones are actively used worldwide for search and rescue operations because they can cover a large area in less time while providing a bird’s-eye view. In 2018, police in the UK used drones to find a semiconscious man on the cliff of Exmouth; they used thermal imaging to locate and save the person.
These capabilities are now available in FlytNow so that search parties can quickly dispatch a fleet of drones and stream the live footage from them to a single dashboard, thus expediting the search and rescue process.
Drones fitted with IR sensors can find people trapped in difficult situations such as forest fires where visibility can be quite poor. In 2018, fires scorched more than 150,000 acres in less than two weeks in California. 16 teams of public safety officials clocked 500 drone flights in 3 days.
UAV flight data was used to aid search and rescue operations, and pinpoint the path of the fire.
Since such operations may require scanning a very large area, of the order of hundreds of square miles, features like multi-cam streaming are crucial for the deployment of a large fleet of thermal drones.
During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, drones deployed in the city of Ahmedabad, India helped monitor lockdown and mitigate the spread of the deadly coronavirus. A central command center was established, with the FlytNow dashboard receiving live video streams from multiple drones flying across the city.
Medicine from the Sky - How FlytNow Can Power a Medical Delivery System Using Drones
Drone delivery is not a new concept; it has existed for over a decade, especially in health care. A company called Zipline has been doing medical deliveries in Africa, long before Amazon came into the picture with its Prime Air service.
Another startup called Matternet ran its first trial of medical drone delivery in Haiti back in 2012, during one of the worst earthquakes known to man. In fact, the use of drones in healthcare has received the lion’s share of attention, due to the fact that it is a commercial as well as a public health opportunity.
Why do drones have a promising future in medical delivery?
Using drones might not yet be practical from an overall logistics point of view since traditional vehicles remain more effective than drones. But when considering the delivery of time-critical medical payloads like blood samples, organs, emergency aids, vaccines, biological drugs, etc. unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can play a pivotal role in saving lives.
Drones can bridge the gap between the medical facilities available to the urban and rural populations by providing critical and timely medical care to people in remote areas.
Global Market Insights has estimated that the medical drone market will hit US $399 million by 2025 and that this growth will be driven by advancements in drone hardware and software.
A decade-long effort by various drone companies to create the technology to support drone deliveries - and the recent use of drones in the fight against COVID-19 - has instilled enough confidence among the medical fraternity to accept drones as a viable means to deliver critical medical services.
The story of drone medical deliveries in India is worth a mention. India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but with a myriad of problems - one being a huge lack of doctors in rural areas, making innumerable villages inadequately equipped to provide proper medical care.
This problem is now being tackled across the central, state, and local governments. For example, in association with World Economic Forum’s Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) Network, the government of the Indian state Telangana has stated a pilot medical drone delivery project called Medicine from the Sky which will eventually be formalized into a comprehensive plan to provide last-mile critical medical services to the rural population of the state.
How will a medical drone delivery system work?
A drone delivery system must be powered by reliable, scalable hardware and intelligent automation software. The following diagram illustrates a high-level overview of such a system.
The components of a drone delivery system can be divided into the following aspects:
- Drone Hardware
- Fleet Management Solution
- Onboard Software
- Drone-in-a-Box Hardware
- UTM Integration
- Advanced Fail-safes|
Use FlytNow for Delivery to launch ‘Medicine from the Sky’ projects
Projects like ‘Medicine from the Sky’ require a robust fleet management solution to plan, manage, log, and share flights of drone fleets.
FlytNow for Delivery is one such cloud-based fleet management solution that is easy to set up, cloud-connected, and operate. It offers the necessary automation capabilities and third-party integrations to manage large scale projects like ‘Medicine from the Sky’.
Below is a list of capabilities which make FlytNow suitable for drone delivery projects:
- Since FlytNow for Delivery is a web application, it is easy to deploy and can be done in a couple of days.
- It supports off-the-shelf DJI drones as well as custom drones based on PX4 and Ardupilot.
- FlytNow provides dashboards to control all aspects of your delivery operation e.g. a dashboard for dispatch operators to launch and manage delivery missions, and a dashboard for recipients to track incoming deliveries.
- FlytNow Enterprise version is fully customizable to suit complex business needs and use-cases.
- FlytNow has built-in features for team management since multiple users, drones, and stakeholders are typically involved in drone delivery operations.
- Users can create unlimited missions, where each mission tells a drone where to go and how to go there.
- Remote stakeholders can watch live video feeds, streamed from multiple drones, to get real-time insights into drone missions, before - during - and after deliveries.
- Apart from live-video streaming, users can also share video streaming with your stakeholders, and control access based on roles, without such stakeholder being on the FlytNow platform.
- The solution is highly modular and can be seamlessly integrated with third-party hardware and software.
- FlytNow’s mission planning module supports advanced geofencing using polygons.
- Users of FlytNow can remotely control various payloads, camera, and gimbal of drones, via SBCs (Single Board Computers).
How FlytNow Offers An Integrated Drone Delivery Solution?
FlytNow as a cloud-connected solution brings all the aspects of a drone delivery system seamlessly together. It is akin to the heart of a system and unifies the following components:
This refers to the actual drone that is used for making the deliveries. The specific type of drone to be used will depend on the nature of the operation.
- For long flights, fixed-wing drones are used since this type of drone can fly long distances due to better battery life. For example, Zipline uses its custom-built fixed-wing drone for their deliveries.
- Multi-rotor drones are more suitable for short-distance flights and for carrying heavier payloads.
Please refer to our The Definitive Guide to Setup Drone Delivery System to learn more about drones suitable for such operations.
Drone delivery missions are often dependent on BVLOS or EVLOS capabilities, which are provided by the fleet management system.
Thus, each drone has to constantly stay connected with FlytNow over a cellular (4G/LTE/5G) network, when out on a mission.
Drone Operating System
All drones need a flight controller to help them fly and maneuver. To make drones work within an automated cloud-connected fleet management system requires a companion computer (SBC) with an operating system eg. the FlytNow SBC Integration Software Kit which is in the form of an operating system that connects a drone to FlytNow, and provides additional capabilities like:
- Hover and precision landing.
- Object detection and collision avoidance.
- Gimbal control.
- Control of mechanical attachments like a clamp to release a package
Drone-in-a-Box (DiaB) Hardware
These are on-ground hardware like docking stations, charging pads, launch systems, etc. These systems help in automating the launch of a drone and later put it in charging mode after returning from a delivery mission.
Such components can be integrated into FlytNow to enable an end-to-end automation solution. For example, FlytNow supports third-party ground hardware from Airscort, Skysense, WiBotic, etc.
In order to scale BVLOS or EVLOS drone missions, it’s important to comply with airspace norms set by various regulatory authorities.
There are numerous Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) service providers that provide dynamic airspace intelligence, most of whom provide APIs that are leveraged by FlytNow for operational integration. With airspace intelligence, drones can fly routes that aren’t likely to cause conflicts with manned aircraft flights.
Drones are expensive, and when one fails it’s not just a monetary loss but, more importantly, it also poses a threat to the lives of the people down below. This is why these must be comprehensive safety features built into the drone fleet management system. FlytNow for Delivery offers advanced fail-safe features such as:
- Return to Home: This feature is a single function, designed to call a drone back to the base station, useful during bad weather conditions or when there’s an adverse flying advisory.
- Emergency Landing Point (ELP): This feature allows the setting of emergency landing points along a delivery route. This is useful in an event of mechanical failure where the drone has to land nearby.
In this blog post, we discussed the rapidly growing importance of drones in medical delivery. We broke down a typical drone delivery system into its key components and discussed how FlytNow can serve as a complete solution for drone delivery operations.
To get started, sign up for our 28 days free trial: https://flytnow.com/pricing/
Or contact us at https://flytnow.com/contact/
Live Video Feeds From Drones for Commercial Applications
The commercial drone industry is rapidly maturing - across industirefries, geographies, use-cases, and business models - thanks to advances in UAV hardware and regulation.
An incredibly rich variety of drone hardware has been built, tested, piloted and deployed for enterprise applications - ranging from ‘nano’ category drones for covert surveillance to large, custom-built drones designed to carry multi-kg payloads for last-mile e-commerce delivery.
Nevertheless, a large percentage of commercial use-cases involving drones revolve around the ‘eye in the sky’ capability - making live, high-quality video feeds from drones a key capability of enterprise-grade solutions.
With the recent advances in AI/ML technology, the data captured by the drones’ camera can then be automatically processed - in the specific context of that use-case - to derive insights and make informed business decisions.
Live Video Streaming from Drones
Live views of an environment, asset, person, etc. - enabled by drones - are central to use-cases such as situational awareness during natural disasters, inspections of wind turbines and solar farms, intruder detection at secure sites, etc.
Drones that stream live video are expected to augment, if not replace, humans as well as fixed monitoring equipment such as CCTVs - driven by their ability to use the 3D space, be remotely operated, carry payloads, be deployed in fleets, and made fully autonomous.
Video from Remote Drone Operations
In use-cases such as public safety, drones can provide live video streams to the emergency operators centers and help accelerate the incident response. In the security & surveillance context, drones can be operated remotely to capture live video, thus preventing humans from being put at risk.
Firefighters can deploy drone fleets all around the incident site to get a 360 degree, real-time video feed and thus employ the most suitable equipment and tactics to control the fire while minimizing safety risks.
From Live Drone Streaming To Remote Drone Control
The latency of live video feeds from drones has been brought down to the 500-ms level, and the latency of drone telemetry is in fact much lower at 50ms.
Enterprises can thus not only rely on near-real-time video feeds (with quality as high as HD) from drone fleets - but they can even incorporate remote control of the drone and camera gimbal, into their workflows.
Subject-matter experts, for example, need no longer go to the site for asset inspections; instead, they can control the drone from a corporate office, using the live video feed as immediate feedback, saving time, effort and expenses - and improving worker safety at the same time!
A variety of remote stakeholders can thus easily access drone videos simultaneously - with only the drone pilot/operations manager having to be physically on-site.
In fact, varying levels of access can be designed to telemetry, images, videos and sensor data - thus ensuring data privacy and security, while empowering the right stakeholders to fulfill their roles in the context of enterprise drone operations.
Enhancing Drones Live Streaming
With the availability of cost-effective off-the-shelf drones and airframes, as well as a wide variety of payloads, drone solution providers are crafting the optimal solutions for commercial use-cases.
The software of course plays a vital role in enabling drone stakeholders to plan, execute, log, monitor and repeat drone missions; the software will also be crucial in maturing most drone operations from manual to fully autonomous.
However, drone payloads such as thermal cameras, IR cameras, sirens, lights, camera gimbals, charging pads, etc. also are crucial for delivering value.
Live video streams from dual cameras in drones can power night-time missions, while the ability to record video streams (on local servers or on the cloud) can support the investigation of security incidents and audits of security services. It also has ability to share video streams securely across all networks.
Insights from Video Streams from Drones
The rich, real-time image and video data captured by drone cameras serve as a rapidly increasing repository of ‘training data’ for AI/ML algorithms to use as part of intelligent automation of enterprise automation.
For example, live video feeds from drones that monitor industrial premises can be complemented with trained AI/ML models that can automatically detect humans, animals, and objects - and trigger security alarms.
Similarly, video streams from public safety situations can be automatically analyzed to aid emergency response teams to identify suspects and/or victims in that context.
Drone solution providers are in fact rapidly building capabilities to automatically detect weeds, pests, crops, cattle, etc. - with high-quality video data from drone fleets as the key enabler.
How do I Deploy Commercial Drones Easily & Quickly?
FlytBase offers a 28-day free trial for users to explore the FlytNow Pro edition. Customers can add their drone fleets, fly them autonomously, create flight plans & coordinate missions, set geo-fence and checklists, view and store live video footage and integrate drone operations into an existing system.
How DSPs Across the World are Adopting Drone Docks for Various Industries
The most recent technology breakthroughs in the commercial drone industry have propelled it to an entirely new level. Previously, a drone's entire flying cycle had to be continuously piloted and monitored. Fortunately, we have entered an era where drones can complete their predefined missions from start to finish while the operator is away. And drone-in-a-box systems have played a pivotal role in making this happen.
These systems eliminate the need for human intervention by allowing the drone batteries to be charged/swapped autonomously, saving time, effort, and money.Until now, the industry had been familiar with "Closed DiaB Systems," wherein a single company built everything.
They invest in each segment, from building the drone to the box to the software to selling the system directly to end-users, making it expensive to produce and consume.
To address this issue, FlytBase advocates for an "Open DiaB Movement" wherein hardware manufacturers, software providers, and DSPs collaborate in their areas of expertise to build and sell a modular system that reduces costs and improves efficiency.[lwptoc]
The "Open Diab Movement" concept was reinforced during a panel discussion held during the NestGen'22 summit, where ground warriors advancing this technology and deploying it in many industries - the DSPs - shared their vision. Among the experts present were:
- Tariq Nasraldeen, Founder & Chief Aviator at Firnas Aero in Saudi Arabia
- Yuji Kuwamizu, a UAV specialist at AfterFIT, Japan,
- Mohamad Shawky, Founder & CEO of Geodrones Aerial Services and,
- Elia Ray Salem, Project Manager at DroneBase, Italy.
Industries likely to see rapid adoption of DiaB systems
The conversation started with one of the most frequently asked questions: "Which industries would see the earliest or most rapid adoption of drone-in-a-box systems?". The four experts cover several industries that would profit from full autonomous system deployments in their respective regions.
Drones for Oil & Gas Inspection
Monitoring leaks or gas emissions, detecting spills and detecting corrosion in offshore rigs, solar panels, and remote facilities have become convenient in topographically and climatically challenging areas such as Dubai.
The DiaB systems are weather and heat-resistant. An internal cooling system allows for much easier aerial mapping and surveying than was possible a few years ago when drones were not autonomous.
Drones for Security
Tariq adds to the conversation by discussing how autonomous drones have transformed security operations. Previously, large facilities had to be physically patrolled despite inclement weather, which made the procedure unreliable, inaccurate, and often even unproductive.
Adding AI and object recognition technologies has made patrolling much easier - everything is now detectable, from a license plate to a wrongly parked car. The ability to attach payloads like thermal cameras or sensors to drones has further rendered the manual process obsolete.
Drones for Renewable Energy
Yuji brings a unique perspective to the discussion. According to him, in Japan, standard surveying approaches are highly ineffective since most solar panels are installed on mountainous terrain.
With the integration of off-the-shelf drones, DiaB systems, and advanced AI, AfterFIT Japan can now conduct remote photo imaging, anomaly, and soil inspections in less than 10 minutes, at a significantly lower cost. Yuji emphasizes the benefit of autonomy, stating that operations are not hampered by external factors such as inclement weather, resulting in increased productivity.
Obstacles hindering full utilization of DiaB systems
Despite increasing awareness of drones, their capabilities, and advancements, Elia states there are very few drone companies in Italy, and DroneBase has to build market awareness through significant investments and continual promotion. Last year, they held live demonstrations at the NATO military airport to raise awareness (the testing ground for manned and unmanned systems).
With several high-profile individuals from the military and other relevant industries in attendance, they attempted to highlight the benefits to aid regulatory bodies in their decision-making process.
An aspiring drone entrepreneur? Don't miss out on industry experts' advice!
Each with a wealth of knowledge and lessons learned, the panellists shared their insights with aspiring drone entrepreneurs. Mohammed stated that today's entrepreneurs must spend time and effort constantly self-reflecting and addressing the demands and concerns of their customers. It will, in his opinion, help entrepreneurs fine-tune and hone their services.
Speaking of customer demands, Tariq says that it all comes down to the client's requirements at the end of the day, which entrepreneurs should not lose sight of. He also believes that instead of catering to everyone's needs, aspiring entrepreneurs should try to specialize in different industry segments.
Every segment necessitates a different set of expertise and skills, and one should strive to make their area of expertise a differentiating factor as well.He recalls a conversation he had with a client years ago in which the client said, "I don't care what drones you're using, autonomous, non-autonomous or whatever, I just need my data to be accurate and timely."
Should one be scared of Drone Autonomy? We think not!
The panel concludes by addressing the concerns that arise during the initial phase of any modern technology. With drones and artificial intelligence coming in, there is concern about the loss of employment. The panel, however, disagrees with that viewpoint; Mohammed affirms that "DiaB will not cut jobs, but instead create more jobs.
"He explains how, even if drones become fully autonomous, the industry will still require human involvement in mission planning, management, and monitoring drone flying cycles. Furthermore, we are a fair distance away from the day when regulatory bodies approve the flight of drones without a pilot, whether autonomous or not.
There are several checks and balances that must be considered. Even reductions in certain job profiles will be offset by an increase in the creation of new job profiles and technological advancements.
To summarize, while long-distance travel, unfavourable working conditions, and repetitive flights would no longer be part of a pilot's workflow, drone autonomy could lead to more fulfilling careers for pilots in areas such as R&D, data analytics, and people/human-centric operations that require not only relevant knowledge and experience but also human characteristics such as empathy and general perception.
Watch the following video, to hear from the industry experts themselves. Watch complete event On-Demand, visit here.
FlytNow Tutorial for Virtual Drone
A virtual drone, as the name suggests, is a drone instance that lets you simulate everything a drone can do in a safe and secure way. You can connect a virtual drone with FlytNow and test the product without having a real drone. Creating a virtual drone requires access to the FlytBase cloud.
How to Create a Virtual Drone
Step 1: Go to my.flytbase.com
Create an account using your email ID.
Step 2: Once you have submitted your credentials, the system will ask you to verify your email address. Check your email and click on the verification link.
Step 3: Once you confirm your email address, log in to the account using your credentials. You will be taken to the dashboard.
Step 4: Activate your cloud API subscription. Click on Cloud option from the right side menu
You will be asked to fill up a request form. Fill the form and submit, and you will be granted beta access.Step 5: Click on My Devices. You will see a button to add a virtual device.
Step 6: Click on add Virtual Device. A virtual drone will be added to your My Device section.
Step 7: Under Options, click on the play button to start the drone. Now click on the rocket icon next to the play button. In a new window, you will be asked to generate an access token.
Step 8: Click on Take me there.
Step 9: In the new page, click on the Generate access token button.Step 10: On the next page, toggle the Access Status to on.
Adding Virtual Drone to FlytNow
Option 1: Log in to https://app.flytnow.com/login with your FlytBase credentials.You will be asked to agree to our terms and conditions. In the Select a drone to Add window, you will see the virtual drone; here you can add the drone.
Option 2: You can also add the drone from the FlytNow dashboard if you decide to skip the window.In the dashboard, click on Add Drone under FLY. There you will see your virtual drone.
Option 3: You can also add a virtual drone using its vehicle ID and access token if you select Manual from the Add Drone dialog box. You can get the vehicle ID and access token from your FlytBase account.
In this blog, we learned how to enable a virtual drone and add it to the FlytNow platform. To get started with FlytNow, sign up for our 28 days free trial: https://flytnow.com/pricing/ Or contact us at https://flytnow.com/contact/