Researchers Describe Self-Sustaining, Continuously Operational Drone Fleet
Last Friday, researchers of the University of Cambridge and KoC University published a paper outlining what they call enIoD – Energy Neutral Internet of Drones . The ever-increasing use of recreational drones has sparked the need for more surveillance drones, and as the limited battery life and poor intercommunication poses a potential gap in combating nefariously operated drones, a network like ‘enIoD’ could ensure maximum oversight.
enIoD is a drone network intended to combat the energy limitations of individual drones by enhancing their connectivity to one another, allowing them to share resources such as power, and thereby creating a self-sustaining, continuously operational fleet.
Efforts have been going on in this direction for some time now-last October researchers from Microsoft, Altitude Angel and London Imperial College worked together on an ‘Internet of Flying Things’. The network they have been working on is an attempt at coalescing all the resources of all the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) activity occurring simultaneously and provide every single flight operator, manufacturer, local authority, and software developer within the 1-kilometer area in question with all the information they need to maintain a clear, regulated picture of what’s occurring over our heads. The enIoD is a similar network, exclusive and interpersonal to drone. Thus Communication and networking architectures and protocols are utilized for realization of multi-dimensional objectives.
The idea is that drones themselves should be able to autonomously support each other. If one surveillance drone is running low on battery, its nearby peers should notice, and whizz off to provide the dying UAV with some energy. This goes for data transfers as well with the ability to share ensuring the survival of any important collected info. The primary motivation here is resilience. As this enIoD is being developed primarily with security-tasked and surveillance-based operations in mind, a network such as this simply can’t afford to be hampered by issues such as battery life or poor communication between UAVs. Hence, these research teams have focused heavily on drones serving and sustaining themselves without the physical assistance of humans. If a drone loses communication with the network (between drones, satellites, stations on the ground, or otherwise), another drone will simply help out and transport the data needed itself. The functionality is similar to a torrent client where packets of data are sourced from anywhere they can be continuously without having to rely on a single user or connection as the only path.
Researchers are working towards the enIoD taking advantage of wireless charging, too, as well as fitting each charging station in the area with solar cells or wind turbines so they can regenerate energy themselves. These charging stations are all linked by the UAVs surrounding them instead of tangible wiring. If charging stations are placed intelligently across any given enIoD area, the UAVs can keep flying for as long as they have to, as they would be wirelessly charged through this network.
T. Long, M. Ozger, O. Cetinkaya and O. B. Akan, “Energy Neutral Internet of Drones,” in IEEE Communications Magazine, vol. 56, no. 1, pp. 22-28, Jan. 2018.