Given the challenges of making timely delivery of drugs or organs for transplant or other commercial deliveries in a crowded city, both the government and the private sector are looking to leverage drones. This week, the government employed one such UAV to deliver vaccines in Northeast India.
While there hasn’t been much commercial activity on this front yet, the hope is clear and the work of the IISc team, which has been informally presented to the authorities, is clear. Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is hoping to create virtual pathways for drones during one of its journeys.
Pilot scale trials for the corridor in the airspace were conducted at the Department of Aerospace Engineering, IISc.
Led by Professor Ashwini Ratnu and debashish Ghosh From the Department of Aerospace Engineering, the team is working on Corridron: Corridors for Drones. Ratnu’s lab works on the planning part of this autonomous UAV brain.
“This is a new drone mobility framework that places great emphasis on the design of air corridors. These designs are based on the size and capabilities of the drone. The path in the sky is fundamentally different from the path on the ground. While offering greater freedom of design due to their virtual nature, drone corridors present several challenges related to traffic efficiency, throughput, drone capability and safety of operations,” Ratnu explained to TOI.
Ghosh said the team has received Rs 70 lakh as initial funding from the Robert Bosch Center for Cyber Physical Systems (RBCCPS) at IISc, while it is in talks with ARTpark (AI and Robotics Technology Park) for collaboration. “We have also discussed this project with the civil aviation secretary,” Ghosh said.
Key features of their development include optimal lane design and placement, innovative geofencing solutions for limited drone movement, and a variety of planning algorithms for lane and intersection traversal.
“Lane design and arrangement in air corridors should be sensitive to a variety of considerations, namely the dimensions of the drone, its ability to accelerate or take turns, and collision avoidance. An optimal trade-off between these factors drives our solution does,” Ratnu said.
Stating that geofencing provides virtual boundaries within which drone mobility must be limited for safety, he said they offer a three-tier geo-fencing solution – the first around the drone, the second to the lane, and Third for the entire corridor – offering enhanced security while maintaining traffic efficiency through a corridor.
“In urban airspace, corridors may be placed in close proximity, leading to the possibility of intersections, mergers or divisions into streets. Our research presents an innovative intersection management approach that intelligently uses a combination of speed and lane changes for smooth mobility of drone traffic through intersections,” Ratnu said.
The team has already completed some basic testing at the runway within IISc and is in talks for better testing.