Drones and Swarms: Disrupting the World
Drone technology is still in its infancy, but that hasn’t stopped the industry from moving fast towards some extremely innovative applications, both good and bad. Drone delivery is catching on, police forces around the world are using automated robots for surveillance and prison management, and industries are using them for planning and monitoring construction of buildings and railway lines.
Although they open up an entirely new dimension for us, single drones are still relatively limited in their applications.
The next step is distributed intelligence that allows swarms of drones to communicate and work together, allowing them to perform jobs that are too difficult for a single drone. There are a number of startups working on the applications of drone swarms today, and not all of them are focused on warfare or military applications. Here are three of the most disruptive startups in the field today —
Even with amazing advances in science and technology, we have barely begun to understand our world. Till date, we have explored less than five percent of the world’s oceans. Hydroswarm aims to fix this, by deploying swarms of underwater drones for operations ranging from monitoring oil spills to identifying ecological changes.
This is a real disruption. Until now, ocean exploration was carried out in a singular fashion using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), which perform a specific mission and then return to base. A fleet of underwater drones could work together to map out more of the ocean floor, monitor seismic activity, gather data for research, and so much more.
Hydroswarm is currently working on a consumer version for scuba divers, followed by an industrial version for more complex operations.
Climate change is becoming an increasingly pressing concern, especially in the face of large groups that deny the problem entirely. Our world is plagued by problems that need to be understood and fixed soon. DroneSeed aims to fix one of these problems by providing forestry management services using a fleet of drones to plant seeds, protecting trees from invasive species and carry out data collection and large scale surveys.
Forestry practices have been relatively immune to new technologies and have been mostly manual, due to rugged terrains and the difficulty of deploying machines without harming the environment. The drone swarms provide a low cost alternative solution that makes the entire process far more efficient.
Search and rescue operations such as firefighting are perhaps one of the most dangerous categories of jobs that exist. These are prime candidates for using the latest and the best technologies to solve communication and planning problems in the field. Feromone Robotics has developed automated drones to assist everyday search and rescue responders, police operations, and firefighting squads.
The drone swarms themselves aim to be perfect assistants without getting in the way of the workers who already have practiced, well executed operations. They provide relay communication in areas which lack communication, a bird’s eye view of the situation along with thermal and 3D views, and work entirely by themselves to carry out a given mission with no human involvement.
These startups portend an extremely interesting trend in robotics — the advent of interconnected, collaborative robotic agents that work in synergy to solve a problem in the most efficient way possible. While the work of these specific startups is yet to be seen in the field, it is an indisputable fact that the domain of AI-controlled robotic swarms promises groundbreaking solutions for some of the biggest problems we face as a society.