Drones are taking the world by surprise with its exploratory abilities in various sectors like agriculture, construction, defense, security and many more. They have become an important tool due to their abilities to increase safety and efficiency in many applications. Drones are mostly controlled by human operators. But, recently Artificial Intelligence (AI) has stepped in this industry which aims at removing the manned part in the drones and avoiding human errors. Pairing artificial intelligence with the abilities of drones will result in better performance and efficiency. AI allows drones to operate and make decisions on their own rather being dependent on its human operator.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Drones can be useful in various sectors such as smart cities, emergency drones, farming, military and defense, industrial infrastructure, face recognition and insurance claiming processing, real estate, entertainment, media and the internet. Construction is one of the sector where it is already being implemented. In March 2018, around one thousand drones which were shipped by Chinese manufacturer DJI and designed by the U.S. drone company Sky Catch were sold to Komatsu a Japanese construction company where these drones are used for smart construction providing aerial mapping, real time updates of the soil and cement on the site. These drones complete the task in minutes whereas human can take days to complete the same.
Airlitix, Inc. headquartered in Santa Clara County, California provides AI and machine learning-enabled drones for greenhouse management that can fly around greenhouses and collect data on temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels to ensure that plants are growing in an optimal ecosystem. In addition to ecosystem measurements, the Airlitix AI drones can analyze soil and crop health to ensure that plants are disease-free and unhindered in their growth. HEMAV a Spain based technology company has applied artificial intelligence to agriculture through its software in which they offer agronomic recommendations to the agricultural sector by making accurate diagnosis of the crop health by analytical reports. Agribotix headquartered in Colorado uses artificial intelligence to provide solutions such as plant and stand count report, field health report, variable application report and digital scouting report which deliver value to farmers, reduction in crop inputs and improvement in yields and profits. SkySquirrel Technologies, Inc. is one of the companies bringing drone technology to vineyards. The company aims to help users improve their crop yield and to reduce costs. Users pre-program the drone’s route and once deployed the device will leverage computer vision to record images which will be used for analysis. FarmShots is another startup focused on analyzing agricultural data derived from images captured by satellites and drones. Specifically, the company aims to detect diseases, pests, and poor plant nutrition on farms. The company claims that its software can inform users exactly where fertilizer is needed and can reduce the amount of fertilizer used by nearly 40 percent.
Companies like American Robotics have created the next generation of drone technology which are fully-automated drones capable of continuous, unattended operation through innovations in robot autonomy, machine vision, edge computing, and AI.With help of AI the fully-autonomous drones are able to identify accurate ground control points, relevant areas for data acquisition, identify different types of plants, motion sensing, and create optimum flight plans. Basically, the farmers will just have to press single switch and the drone will complete the rest of the task without and human assistance. This can be a game-changer for drone manufacturers and end users who are not highly skilled drone pilots. Many companies such as American Robotics, MMC, and HoneyComb Corporation have introduced fully autonomous drones for agriculture. The service provider’s segment has also employed AI with Drones for better results. For instance, the Swiss company Gamaya uses its drones equipped with hyperspectral sensors to collect aerial images of fields and analyse this data with AI and provide precise information to farmers regarding crop phenology.
Another area where AI is used on large scale is yield prediction. The drone software providers are using deep learning, computer vision and machine learning models to precisely track and predict impact of environmental conditions on varying crop yield. Moreover, planning the best time for harvest, soil health analysis, and identifying the possibility of disease and pest infestations can be done with this technology. Numerous companies such as Agribotix, Scale AI and Sentera have introduced software solution which leverage AI for drone data analysis. This segment has caught attention of many potential investors and large amount of research and development is being carried out. For instance, in September 2018, Sentera received $14 million in Series A funding for enhancing the adoption AI in drone analytics.
AI and drones seems to be really a perfect match and together holds high potential to grow exponentially. Several established companies and new-entrants are developing strategic partnerships and acquisitions to get hold on drones and its service markets. DroneSense, Scale, Neurala, Alive, Applied Aeronautics, Skydio, Orby, Shield AI, and Aerovironment are few more names providing AI in drones for various applications including defense, industrial, robotics, inspection, media and entertainment, etc.