Take to the skies with DroneDays

The first edition of DroneDays is soon approaching, so the organizers of the event, Ivana Mikolić, Stjepan Bogdan, Matko Orsag and Frano Petric (LARICS and UNIZG-FER team members) told us more about what visitors can expect at the workshop. The interview was published on the DroneDays website and you can read it in the detailed news content. Registrations for the event are now open - register by following this link.

DroneDays is a two-day workshop focused on unmanned aerial vehicles which will be held on 26th and 27th March 2019 at UNIZG-FER in Zagreb, Croatia. The programme consists of keynote lectures, an exhibition area, as well as a flying zone, and is focused on unmanned aerial vehicle applications and end-user industries. It will serve as a meeting place for experts from the industry and academia, end-users, as well as regulatory bodies from the region.

How did you come about the idea of organizing DroneDays and what are its main goals?

Aerial robotics has recently reached a new level, with the number of unmanned aerial systems, applications and involved companies and parties growing each year. This same growth can be seen in the number of publications, workshops and conference presentations, which is why this area has a great research potential. As we wanted to bring together experts from the academic, industrial and end-user communities, as well as the representatives of regional regulatory and legislative bodies, we decided to organize DroneDays as an end-user workshop. DroneDays will be held on 26 and 27 March at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing (FER) in Zagreb. The goal of DroneDays is to encourage interactions, as well as the exchange of knowledge and experience in the field of aerial vehicles, so the program will consist of expert lectures, demonstrations of the newest technological achievements in aerial robotics in our flying zone, and a company fair where the leading industrial tech companies will present themselves at booths.

The idea for DroneDays grew in FER’s Laboratory for robotics and intelligent control systems (LARICS) as a result of one of the Laboratory’s new EU projects – “AeRoTwin – Twinning coordination action for spreading excellence in Aerial Robotics”.

– Ivana Mikolić, M. Sc.

The first edition of DroneDays will gather many experts from the academy and industry. How do these two areas relate to one another when it comes to aerial robotics?

The research and development of unmanned aerial systems have in the last 10 years grown rapidly. Over 60 scientific papers have been published as part of the two biggest robotics conferences in 2016. If we take a look at the number of scientific papers on the topic of unmanned aerial systems published in the most prominent papers and presented at international conferences, it becomes clear that the growth has been exponential. The same can be said for LARICS – in the last three years, over 20 scientific papers were published on this topic. Similar trends can be seen in industry, as well. Unmanned aerial vehicles are, therefore, essential elements in the entertainment industry, agriculture, energy, industrial plants, archaeology etc., which is one of the reasons why this is such an interesting area for academic research.

LARICS members are also dedicated to researching aerial vehicles in the context of everyday and industrial applications. This is best shown by the fact that currently there are three major projects in this area that the laboratory members are working on: “SPECULARIA – Structured Ecological CULtivation with Autonomous Robots In Agriculture, the goal of which is to research the application of unmanned aerial systems in agriculture; “MORUS – Unmanned system for maritime security and environmental monitoring”, where the LARICS team is working on one of the currently biggest autonomous drones as part of NATO’s Science for Peace and Safety programme; and AeRoTwin, which will significantly improve LARICS’ visibility on the global and European map of aerial robotics in science and industry.

– Assist. prof. Matko Orsag, Ph. D.

What are currently the global and European trends when it comes to unmanned aerial vehicle applications?

Currently in the EU, there are 1.5 million unmanned aerial vehicles used for the entertainment industry, whereas only some 10 thousand are used for commercial purposes (mostly for aerial filming and searches), and only around one thousand are used within the military in the EU. In civil applications, the following areas are more prominent: energy, safety, e-commerce and delivery, mobility and transport. It has been estimated that until the year 2035, around 250 thousand operators of unmanned aerial systems will be needed in the EU alone. Also, today most of the flying inspection missions are done with two operators, a pilot and an inspector who monitors the recorded data. By developing software tools which will process the collected data in real time, the need for a two-person crew will diminish. Around 80% of the 250 thousand operators will be existing staff (e.g. surveyors) who will go through additional training and will then perform flying missions along with their regular duties. This will result in an additional 50 000 workplaces for the needs of training unmanned aerial system operators.

In the energy sector (production and transport of energy), unmanned systems are mostly used to inspect the infrastructure – oil platforms, power plants, wind and solar farms, pipelines and power lines. Drones also play a key role in the so-called smart and precision agriculture in two major aspects: a) aerial surveying for the purpose of assessing the condition of the ground and crops, and b) for precise crop spraying from lower altitudes.

Currently, the largest number of unmanned aerial systems in civil applications is used to conduct individual and public safety missions. This includes border surveillance, both on land and at sea, as well as aiding the valorisation repairing the damage caused by natural disasters (forest fires, floods etc.), identifying dangerous individuals and fugitives, analyses of car crashes, search and rescue operations in dangerous and inaccessible areas.

Other sectors which benefit from aerial robotics include construction, telecommunications, property insurance, media, the film and entertainment industry, and research. In construction, even today, before the beginning of building and during the process, aerial surveys are done in order to get a complete image of the project. In the sector of telecommunications, drones are used in infrastructure inspections (cell towers), while the insurance industry implements them to survey a property before concluding insurance contracts, as well as in cases of damage claims. The media, film and entertainment industry are currently the driving force for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in civil applications.

–  Prof. Stjepan Bogdan, Ph. D.

During DroneDays, there will be a company fair and flying zone demonstrations. Can you tell us more about them?

One of the goals of DroneDays is to encourage the dialogue between aerial vehicle users and service providers, be it producers, distributors or operators, and to offer all sides the opportunity to develop new collaborations. The fair will ensure that potential users not only gain direct contact with companies at their booths, but they will also be able to directly formulate their needs and wishes via business-to-business meetings. At the same time, the fair, which will be open for all interested parties (registered or not), will allow the companies to promote their brand and present their capabilities and services to a wider public, as well as to potential employees. By keeping the standard and well-known fair format with company booths, we wanted to make sure that everyone who is interested can also demonstrate the capabilities of their systems to potential users, which will be done in the flying zone at FER. The flying zone will also be used to demonstrate the current research results of the academic community, which will offer participants a glimpse of the future of unmanned aerial vehicles.

–  Frano Petric, Ph. D.

Author: Ivana Mikolić
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