Drone service providers, both new and experienced, need to be able to fly safely around buildings and other structures as drone use cases and opportunities increase. Here’s how. There are many reasons why uncrewed aircraft vehicles (i.e. drones) should not fly near or contact structures like buildings, trees, or vehicles. Drone flights can be negatively affected by a variety of technical issues such as radio frequency interference, magnetic, electrical and barometric pressure, as well as environmental variables like wind and barometricpressure that can create difficult flight conditions.
UAV pilots must recognize that a drone can be used for any purpose. If the drone was designed for this type of use, or a specific use case, no one should fly near or attempt to contact any surface or structure. There are many business uses for drones and other UAVs. Here are some tips for drone service providers, both new and experienced, to ensure safe flying.
Location, direction, and elevation are key to success
A drone must know three things in real-time to fly safely: its location (or where it is in the universe); direction (or where it is going); and altitude (or how far it is from the ground).
Location. The drone uses the onboard Global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver to determine its precise spatial location. Satellite signals may not be received in all industrial environments. This can lead to degraded or denied GPS coordinates in some locations, such as above-ground storage tanks and large cargo ships.
Direction. The drone’s magnetic compass is used to determine north. It also allows it to determine its heading and directional direction. However, readings of the compass can sometimes be inaccurate or not available in certain environments, such as those with large steel objects and near large metals.
Elevation. Barometric pressure is used by drones to determine distance from ground. Barometric readings can be distorted or incorrect when close to structures.
There is a possibility of losing control of the aircraft if any of these information flows to the UAV’s autopilot fails, partially or fully. False or degraded information and data flowing into the UAV autopilot, navigation controls motors, or any other subsystem can lead to serious consequences.
Finding Compromised Flight Data
You can overcome some of these problems by creating a Faraday shield or cage around the drone’s electronics. Faraday cages are a metal cover or screen that is grounded around an equipment piece to prevent electromagnetic and electrostatic influences. This is especially useful for companies that inspect live powerlines on power transmission towers closely.
Another solution is to design and manufacture a robotic arm/rod, which protrudes from drone body past propellers. It has a probe tip that makes contact with a surface. This is known in robotics as an end-effector. The system uses a multimodal array sensors, an onboard computer and complex integrations to enable precise flight control. These systems can make 20 to more micro adjustments per second to the flight, which is impossible for human pilots.
There is no one solution that works in all situations or for all uses. One solution may not work for another. A drone that is designed to fly fast and far should not be used to fly close to or in contact with structures.
Solving for Environmental Factors
Flying close to structures can result in generic compromised flight data, which can negatively impact GPS, Compass, or Barometric Pressure information. There are also environmental factors that can have a negative effect on flight safety.
Atmospheric/barometric pressure inaccuracies
Wind and breezes
Venturi effect, also known as winds around structures
Radio-frequency interference, also known as electromagnetic interference
Atmospheric/barometric pressure inaccuracies: Atmospheric pressure, also known as barometric pressure, is the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere roughly measured as the difference in air pressure from a sea-level mean. The atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude, which allows one to calculate the atmospheric tension at a given elevation. Barometric errors can occur near structures where both wind and pressure are disturbed. Temperature and h