Micro-drones are being put to use in a large number of areas, where these small aircraft face extensive requirements while performing aerial observation tasks or when deployed in the field of disaster management. A newly developed concept summarizes some of these challenges.
“Today, micro-drones are already equipped with sensors such as cameras, which allow data collection for a specific area,” Torsten Andre, of the Institute of Networked and Embedded Systems, explains. This is particularly useful in the event of a disaster, for example, when rescue teams need to be supplied with images of the affected area.
In such cases, it is common to deploy a number of micro-drones. This requires communication at several levels:
- between the individual micro-drones (air-to-air)
- between the base station on the ground and the drone (ground-to-air)
- between the drone and the base station (air-to-ground)
In collaboration with other scientists, Torsten Andre has been working on developing a summary of the communication requirements that result from a network of this kind.
“We assign the requirements to separate building blocks,” Andre says.
For this, the researchers draw upon their own knowledge, as well as upon previously conducted experiments. The underlying assumption is that this innovative form of system representation will prove helpful in specifying and implementing a range of application requirements. The requirements can be represented in four building blocks:
- Firstly, there is the “control” of the system by the user or by a coordinating center, although this becomes less significant, the more autonomously the drones act.
- Secondly, aided e.g. by cameras, the system is required to “perceive” its environment. The results can take the form of images, videos or measurement data.
- Thirdly, the drones should independently work in mutual coordination, i.e. collaborate and prevent potential collisions.
- The fourth block is concerned with “connecting” the information between two separate points. In summary, the aim is to produce a system that can accomplish joint missions without requiring any human intervention.
Andre and his colleagues point out that further research and development effort is required in all of these areas in order to ensure the ongoing improvement of the adaptation, heterogeneity, reliability and quality of micro-drone networks.
The concept can also be transferred to other robotics systems. For example, it is applied on a robotics system for autonomous exploration of buildings developed at the Institute of Networked and Embedded Systems. This Lakeside Labs project is funded by the Carinthian Economic Promotion Fund (KWF).
Citation: Torsten Andre, Karin Hummel, Angela Schoellig, Evsen Yanmaz, Mahdi Asadpour, Christian Bettstetter, Pasquale Grippa, Hermann Hellwagner, Stephan Sand, Siwei Zhang. “Application-driven design of aerial communication networks.” IEEE Communications Magazine, 2014; 52 (5): 129 DOI: 10.1109/MCOM.2014.6815903