Taiwan-based Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) has rolled out a fleet management system for drones, which it says can control more than one LTE-connected unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The potential applications of the ICT Solution for Drones include aerial photography, security patrol, solar panel, wind turbine and power line inspection, landslide inspection and transport, according to the research institute.

In a solar panel inspection, for example, the platform would enable a fleet of drones to detect hot-spot heating on solar panels in solar farms, which can include millions of solar panels across thousands of acres, well beyond the range of remote-control drones but easily within the range of LTE. An aerial inspection would reduce the possibility of hot spots caused by dust or leaves that may result in permanent damage to a solar panel. In a landslide inspection application, the platform would enable a fleet of drones to survey landslide conditions beyond visual line-of-sight to help save lives.

ITRI’s ICT Solution for Drones includes three components:

  • Remotely-Operated Autonomous Drone (ROAD), which can engage in intercontinental out-of-sight operation throughout the world using LTE. The ROAD features a fail-safe communications system that includes disconnection recovery; three control channels (cellular network, 2.4GHz remote control and 915MHz long-range telemetry); emergency handover between control channels; emergency landing capability; the ability to fly away from LTE dead zones. An Intelligent multiple-flight fleet management system integrates drone flight data and three streaming cameras; allows the user to select the drone to control; and simultaneously displays the positions of all drones on a map.
  • Tribrid Real-Time Streaming for Drone is a heterogeneous multi-video streaming platform provides hybrid data streaming of three cameras over LTE: first person view (FPV); 30x optical zoom high-definition eagle-view surveillance; and a thermal camera for inspection and night vision.
  • Super Range: In addition to intercontinental remote operation over LTE, the ROAD can operate autonomously for certain periodic patrolling tasks in extended areas over a month by the recharging system, which includes an automatic stabilised landing stage; a charging safety subsystem monitor; support for versatile power sources such as a highly efficient direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) power module, regular power line or DC sources from solar cells or other generators; and an additional buffering system for continuous and stable charging supply for the drone.