How are drones evolving, and how can we be ready?

How are drones evolving, and how can we be ready?

Capable of changing our lives through a wealth of applications, the unmanned industry is on a clear trajectory of evolution. With innovations continually pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, drones promise to become more integral throughout a range of industries and environments.

On 29th of November 2022, the European Commission published EU Drone Strategy 2.0, the next milestone in building a sustainable European drone ecosystem with one of the EC visions being “By 2030, drones and their required eco-system will have become an accepted part of the life of EU citizens.” This will be true for the UK also.

But just how are drones continuing to evolve, and what considerations do we need to focus on to continue drone evolution and enable future applications?

Here, we’re exploring current areas of drone innovation, and highlight further areas in need of focus. We’ll discuss how we’re working alongside the CAA to redefine regulations, why users need to harness C2 platforms in the face of increasingly complex operations, and more.

How are drones continuing to evolve?

Drones have been able to continue to evolve due to key innovations in three distinct areas: the drone vehicle platform, the onboard intelligence, and the environment that the drone operates in.

The drone vehicle platform

Innovations in the vehicle platform have made drones lighter, faster, and capable of taking longer flights – making them ideal for a wealth of tasks in military, commercial, and consumer landscapes. These innovations have seen significant development, and are now highly advanced.

The onboard intelligence

Onboard intelligence systems are enabling drones to perform more complex tasks autonomously, and are being focused on just as much as the drone vehicle platform itself.

Computer vision, image processing, and other AI tools have been developed to make drones more effective than we ever expected – and cutting-edge research in this area continues to persist.

The environment

The environment in which a drone operates also needs to be carefully considered. Without the correct technology in place, drones will be unable to sense and avoid other aircraft, or successfully navigate complex climates. By introducing new technology to a drone’s surroundings, drones can be aided in their task, without hindering their manoeuvrability or speed. This is exactly what we’re doing through Project HADO®.

Innovating environments with HADO®

The setting in which a drone operates can present an array of challenges such as other aircraft or additional environment-specific regulations. At Operational Solutions, we are highly involved in enhancing how drones navigate complex environments through our work with Project HADO® (designed to challenge autonomous BVLOS operations in high-intensity surroundings).

Using Heathrow Airport as a testing ground, due to its complexity and likeness to a ‘smart city’, we aim to create an environment that supports multiple BVLOS operations in a complex airspace. We achieved this by utilising a wide range of technology, such as synthetic environments, drone surveillance systems, and UAS Traffic Management platforms.

By combining this work with the focus on AI that is driving onboard systems forward, drones can become more capable, more advanced, and more effective.

Want to learn more? Discover how Project HADO is transforming drone operations.

The applications of enhanced drones

As we look to the future and ask ourselves what evolving capabilities mean for the future of drones, we must consider each of these three components. Meaningful change designed to benefit our society will require the incremental adaptation of onboard intelligence and offboard systems in equal measure – reinforced by capable vehicles themselves wherever possible. The result: drones that can perform many complex tasks, such as:

  • Providing remote mobile coverage
  • Monitoring assets, civilians, or those most vulnerable
  • Analysing infrastructure quickly and without risk
  • Delivering items to remote locations without the need for manual labour

Redefining necessary regulations

Alongside the incremental changes in drone vehicle platforms, onboard intelligence, and controlled environments, there is another critical component that is being redefined: regulations.

From range to environment access, current drone regulations reinforce many aspects of operations both in the UK and beyond.

We’re fully aware that regulations are a necessary part of this ground-breaking ecosystem – helping to mitigate any risks associated with new drone applications. These risks can include:

  • Interference with air traffic
  • Sudden errors causing drones to fall in crowded spaces
  • Malfunctions inhibiting normal operations
  • Causing unintended damage to environments or assets

Through our involvement with HADO® and beyond, we’re fully equipped to help redefine current regulations. As such, we are one of the key parties working with the Civil Aviation Authority. In doing so, we are helping to manage and inform their thinking regarding current drone operations, explore other possible areas of consideration, and redefine regulations to make the future of daily drone applications possible.

The need for integrated C2 platforms

With drones advancing to become more intelligent and with greater autonomy, it’s more important than ever to take advantage of an integrated C2 platform.

Capable of processing a range of data from onboard systems, the environment, and the vehicle platform itself, an integrated C2 platform can give users a complete overview with a single integrated operating picture. This ensures that users can remain confident in all ongoing drone activity, and can confidently respond to unexpected challenges or risks.

With incremental changes in all three areas of the drone platform continuing to advance core capabilities, we continue to work with key partners to examine and redefine current regulations, as well as bring new developments to C2 platforms and drone operating environments.

To learn more about our ongoing involvement, visit our news page for the latest insights, ongoing trends, and more.