There were so many interesting developments in the world of drones. The amount of industry applications was staggering. From 3D imaging to LiDAR, from City to Sea floor mapping, rescue and medical, infrastructure and property… the list went on and Queensland has been receptive to the rate at which these drone technologies are developing, and how that affects the airspace, ports, land and sea, how councils should prepare for this change, and how CASA and Government regulations should work together with industry leaders to facilitate Australian innovation.
The above image (Left) is the panel discussion format after each session, which attendees could voice their questions and concerns, most of which could be answered in detail, but some that were specifically challenging to answer and posed potential issues in future when airspace is more crowded and regulations change accordingly.
Another attraction in the above video was FPVR – drone racing competition that were flying around the obstacles throughout the event. This was not only popular for drone geeks like me but students from primary and highschools who attended the expo as well. Many of Queensland’s have been heavily involved in exposing students to drones, and the industries they touch on, and the Congress was a great way to introduce future pilots and industry leaders to the technologies.
Next to the Racing section there was a booth with Rotor Rush, a Virtual Reality Experience which was similar to the racing. I definitely a lot of time here practicing my piloting skills, i can tell you its harder than it looks, and brutally fast paced! The very right picture is of the drones that were being flown in the races, many of which crashed and were getting repaired, these ones had broken propellers.
Next was some presentations with the topic of “Drones for Good”.
My favourite was Zipline, showcasing lifesaving automated delivery drone systems launched in Rwanda, Africa. First they get an order of blood or other high value medicine by text message, then these items are packaged and prepared for flight, maintaining cold-chain and product integrity. Automatically launched, tracked and delivered to those in need. They use AI to automatically detect weather conditions, collision avoidance and return home. Another interesting point was how quickly the perception of drone technology changes when it works… after two years of deliveries the majority of Rwandan now expect the medicine delivered by drone and the countries around them are looking to open up their regulations to have the same capability.
The Following day was “Smart Cities”
Another standout was Bentley, specifically their “Context Capture” Software, which merges pretty much any data set and slaps them together in the same 3D environment. From LiDAR and other drone data down to iPhone shots on the ground you can get an aerial view of an entire city or precinct then dive down and look at detail on the ground, and toggle 3D options to change the environment, go to first person perspectives, overlay 3D models of developments or government projects, etc. The problem with these large scale 3D models is that they deteriorate almost immediately and take a crapload of time to build, and then we have different environments for different data sets that all decay at varying rates. This seemed to be a all encompassing, easily updatable solution for city / project planning and visualisation.
Some other Highlights.
Military drone applications. The tiny helicopter-like drone on the left weighs 30 grams and is undetectable from 5 metres away. The Australian Defense Force is using them to scout locations, targets, weapons, etc without having to be in the enemy line of sight. They were flying it around the conference and everyone was unaware of its presence. The control was one handed, so you can still whip out your firearm!
Another cool concept was self repairing Cities. With 3D printing Asphalt technology attached to drones by LEADS university. The drone flies over an area, finds the defects in the road, flies in when its safe, and prints the molten asphalt in the crack or pothole. It was still in Beta stages but worked… they just have to work out how to drastically increase the payload and how to sway regulations in the UK to allow for the drones to be flown automatically.
These drones by YUNEEC Aviation Technolgy showcased Infrared and lowlight camera and antenna boosters on the controllers. 3D modeling and other Data capture at night or low visibility situations.
And some interesting shaped drones which had 33% higher battery efficiency, taking advantage of airflows similar to helicopters.
I had such a great time immersive myself in the world of drones this year, would definitely recommend to anyone interested in the technology. Also a bonus when the event is run smoothly and there is plenty of food and refreshments throughout. I also had the opportunity to network with many of the attending experts and speakers, there are some seriously smart people out there developing drone technology to solve some of the worlds biggest problems and we have barely scratched the surface!