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AI & ML Can Open Up Space For Drones To Demonstrate Full Potential: Karthik Shankaran, CIO, DEP

AI & ML Can Open Up Space For Drones To Demonstrate Full Potential: Karthik Shankaran, CIO, DEP

AI & ML Can Open Up Space For Drones To Demonstrate Full Potential: Karthik Shankaran, CIO, DEP
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The demand for drones in the market has seen an incredible upsurge lately. As a matter of fact, the convenience of remote monitoring and its flexibility in harsh terrains has considerably increased the popularity of drone technology across segments like eCommerce, agriculture, warfare, to name a few, which was unthinkable a decade ago. 

According to data, the current global market size of drone technology is about $14 billion and is expected to grow to $43 billion by the year 2024. The major chunk of this growth can be attributed to its significant usage in commercial deliveries. Currently, there are several drones start-up companies in India, which focus on the development, manufacturing, providing analytics platform for drone solutions. Some prominent names include Bangalore-based EDALL SYSTEMS and Skylark Drones and Delhi-based Atom Drones.  

Having said that, while drones have seen a significant market boost, it comes with safety, security and privacy concerns, where it has been constantly scrutinised to be deployed for exploiting their security and privacy of individuals. Further, there were also cases where criminals, drug cartels and terrorists have used drones. To dig more in-depth on the drone technology and the involvement of artificial intelligence to enhance drone solutions, Analytics India Magazine spoke to Karthik Shankaran, the Chief Innovation Officer of Detroit Engineered Products (DEP). 



To set the context — DEP is a product development house where customers focus strictly on drone development. While other companies work on the development and manufacturing of drones, DEP offers drone development as-a-service and solution offering, making it preferable for collaboration in solution development. With DEP, customers can get their product/solutions developed during any stage of drone development — from the conceptual phase to prototype and production. The company has the expertise and experience in the development of both rotor drones (Quadcopter) as well as fixed-wing drones.

Also Read: Leveraging Computer Vision In Drone Tech

Edited excerpt:

What is the current India scenario for drone technology? What’s the importance of cloud for drones?

In India, the regulations related to drone flying shaped during the year 2018, only four years after it imposed a ban on the same due to a drone accident in Mumbai. The Director-General of Civil Aviation has come up with a set of guidelines which are very slow in getting implemented. However, the current COVID-19 situation required drones for several types of relief operations, and considering this, the Ministry of Civil Aviation introduced “Draft Unmanned Aircraft system rules, 2020”. The Draft UAS Rules once passed will supersede the existing drone regulations which were made effective by the DGCA in 2018. Amid COVID, drones have also been used for disinfecting certain areas.

Coming to the cloud aspect, drones integrated with cloud platforms are much smarter than traditional machines. Conventionally, data is distributed across multiple services or spreadsheets, which are difficult to maintain or share with other personnel. Drones come with data issues, and with the cloud, it can have a central repository for all data when integrated with fleets of drones. The drone-powered with the cloud can process and transfer the data airborne with accurate insights.

The current scenario is that the drones can do recognition and detection of objects through edge computing. For example, it can detect problems in the farms and alert the farmers. However, cloud computing enabled drones can synthesise and process data while airborne, leading to smart and better results. The drones will leverage the ability of the cloud to learn faster and deploy better.

What’s the involvement of AI in drone technology? What are the drone challenges that AI can solve?

The adoption of artificial intelligence is rising across segments and plays a massive factor in drone technology as well. Currently, we are at the doorstep of a drone that is intuitive to perform tasks and relay the information to a drone operator to make informed decisions without needing human intervention to execute. AI aims to make efficient use of large data sets, like aerial images, as automated and seamless as possible. The high degree of automation on data acquisition and data analytics will open up space for the drones to demonstrate their full potential. This will be achieved through the combination of machine learning, deep learning and motion planning, along with machine perception. As AI technology progresses, there could be more comprehensive and mechanised drone solutions.

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Meshing is a significant process in drone development; DEP’s Meshworks works on a powerful CAE meshing engine to create 2D and 3D meshes from CAD data. With highly automated techniques, this process can now be done with minimal user intervention. Coming to graphing and modelling, artificial intelligence can help in model assembly as well as gathering materials. 

One of the critical challenges drones currently face includes limited payload capacity and flight endurance along with its legal and approval issues for mass adoption. At present, the drones can fly only about 15-30 minutes before they need recharging or swapping batteries, which can be enhanced with the automated techniques. Along with these, drones are also facing issues with air safety, vulnerability to theft, and unfavourable weather like a storm, rain, snow etc.

What’s the scene for professionals willing to make a career in drone technology? Also, what does the future hold?

There are several courses, programs and certifications available to become a professional drone pilot. These courses will provide hands-on training on UAVs / drones, fundamentals of drone data processing, understanding federal policies on drone flying etc. Currently, there aren’t many qualified drone institutes in India, apart from Indian Institute of Drones, headquartered in Chennai, where they provide certification courses and a diploma in drone technology.

The drone technology has started paving a new set of careers in different industries. If well leveraged, this can be a fantastic method for innovation of multidisciplinary standards and practices. It has always been a struggle to obtain micro details of certain industries, but with drones, those are getting addressed to a lot of extents. This is because the technology can go to unreachable places, where it can capture images of different inspections with aerial shots, which has always been a challenge for humans. 

Every day a new set of application has been developed in drone, like weed spraying in agriculture and farming industry, surveillance support for police personnel, delivery of medicines for the healthcare industry, symptom detection along with temperature monitoring, disinfecting of public places, delivery of medicines and essential goods, surveillance for strengthening social distancing, as well as broadcasting news. Thus, it requires a proper career path set out for young graduates, which can create a new set of jobs. Also, budding entrepreneurs and inventors in the drone development or drone support technology areas should be well supported by the government and the investment community.

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