Control your APM/Pixhawk drone from the cloud with DroneDeploy

dronedeploy

A great announcement from DroneDeploy, whose cloud-based drone management service is optimized for APM and Pixhawk-controlled drones. From sUAS News:

Today, DroneDeploy launches their web-based drone control platform,  enabling users to control drones over the internet. The software is designed to simplify drone workflows, making it easy to create high-precision surveys, agricultural maps, and point clouds.

The cloud-based software is enabled by their Copilot – a smart cellular telemetry radio, which  makes it possible to control drones, directly from a smartphone or any internet connected device.

The Copilot not only controls drones, but controls the sensors. According to Mike Winn, CEO, “the Copilot can control several types of cameras, and can upload the data as it is collected, enabling automatic processing of the data. Drone operators can get stitched maps produced within minutes of landing, and share it with others instantly. Previously this would have taken hours!”

The DroneDeploy software can enable control of multiple drones, or in fact have many people collaborate in the operation of one drone. Jono Millin, CPO, explains “You can imagine a wind turbine inspection where engineers back in the office can get imagery back in real time, and  coordinate closer inspection of turbines with potential problems.”

Nick Pilkington, CTO continued, “While there are so many applications of this technology, and we’re actually looking to create more by working with partners and specialists to enhance our workflows for more drone use-cases”.

The product launches today, with an “Explorer Program”, giving access to just 50 teams to start using their product. The device is $299, and applications start today onwww.DroneDeploy.com

Views: 6105

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on May 9, 2014 at 10:19am

Very nice! A 4G/LTE telemetry box like this is on my wishlist forever! But does the box work without the service?

To be honest, I would never ever use any kind of cloud service for control of a UAV! Not only because of privacy or commercial confidentiality concerns but primarily because of security concerns!

There is no such thing as sufficient security in a cloud service and when my proverbial butt is on the line - and it is when I operate a UAV (keyword: operator liability) - then no promise about security or availability of any cloud service will be ever good enough for me.

Because I'm sure, they have lots of "we don't accept any liability"-clauses in their ToS, so I'll be the one talking to judge and jury if my UAV crashes into something due to some hacker attack (or similar) on the cloud service.

Nice idea, though...


Moderator
Comment by Roberto Navoni on May 9, 2014 at 10:22am

With the european rule is impossible to use this kind of option . The pilot will be in field of view of drone , maximum at 250 meter of distance and 70 m of altitude. 

The other limit is the onboard interference with gps  and the LTE coverage is limited only in big city non in all the country. So you can have a lot of latency problem ... i think that could be only a sperimental solution but very limited by law and coverage at the moment.

best

Roberto 


100KM
Comment by Hein du Plessis on May 9, 2014 at 11:37am
It would be fantastic not to be tethered to a telemetry link! I can monitor and control my drone even if it's in another province! What would the service cost? Latency is not an issue because it's not going to be used for piloting, but setting new waypoints etc.
Comment by Mike Winn on May 9, 2014 at 2:04pm

Thanks Chris! 

@Stephan - you are right security is extremely important! We have worked hard on this and actually believe there are security advantages of LTE over traditional telemetry modems. 

@Roberto - Agreed, drone pilots should stay in VLOS. Cellular enables less equipment in the field (just a cell phone/tablet!) and collaboration with others BLOS. Imaging sharing your flight with your friends as it happened, sharing FPV with your mom, or getting assistance from someone out of VLOS. GPS 

@Hein - Thanks for your support. You can monitor it if its in another province (or country) - but you still should have a pilot on the ground!

 

Comment by Edgar Scott on May 9, 2014 at 2:12pm

GREAT!!!!!!!

Comment by Thomas Robinson on May 9, 2014 at 5:25pm

Have I understood this correctly? Are you saying that a web based application will be the interface between the drone and the pilot? What happens if the cloud application goes down? Also, what happens if the connectivity between the cloud based application and the UAV goes down? 

Would love to know. I'm sure there has been something put in place to reduce risks. 

Comment by Jack Crossfire on May 9, 2014 at 5:37pm

That's the kind of service ripe for a multi billion dollar buyout.  At least the data collected by it could be sold to the government for studying air traffic patterns or sold to Google for location based advertizing of more products designed to enable location based advertizing.

Comment by Dan Murray on May 9, 2014 at 5:50pm

Man, every time I have an idea, someone else shows they have already built it better a couple days later! Congrats guys, this looks great.


MR60
Comment by Hugues on May 10, 2014 at 12:17am

How does this work in practice? Does it imply drones are prepositionned in the field? Or is this app just a remote viewing/control link in addition to a local pilot having brought physically the drone on site?

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on May 10, 2014 at 12:57am

@Mike Winn:

I agree that LTE/4G is in principal much more secure than the current telemetry (I actually started a thread about the current telemetry's security problems in the forums here a while ago) - that's why a respective device was on my wish list, as I wrote. However, cloud services are not!

Location data as well as video streams have privacy implications as well as potentially touch commercial secrets. This alone makes any UAV remote-control cloud service a high value target for hackers from amateur to military level.

As I wrote, there is no such thing as a sufficiently secure cloud service and I have a 10+ years background in IT-security. Every system can be broken into - which has been impressively demonstrated by breakins into e.g. various US government systems, facebook, LinkedIn, who surely have a bigger budget and more people for security than you do and even RSA - who is was the information security company - has been hacked and their widespread and popular two-factor authentication system compromised - compromising millions of other systems around the globe.

Cloud service security is an illusion! If the target is of enough value, enough effort will be invested to break into it.

I already pointed out the operator liability issues, but they are only half the story.

A cloud service which allows for remote control of UAVs? Every terrorist on the planet is going to love that! No need to put yourself in danger, no messing around with TSA and the likes... Just hack the cloud service, hijack a suitable UAV and direct it into the path of an airliner, or maybe for starters just into a major power line, blacking out half a state, causing chaos and mayhem. And the best thing - it's almost impossible to prove and in doubt, the operator is the one going to Gitmo or getting the needle for that.

So - as I wrote... Nice idea but IMHO no UAV operator in his right mind would use a service like that!

If you develop a desktop box which can talk to the LTE box in the UAV directly, without any cloud service in between, through encrypted communications, I'd say "perfect - that is what we absolute need!" But a cloud service? Ehm, no!

Besides, Jack Crossfire also has a valid point... Yet another company that collects sensitive data (which are worth lots of money) - we don't really need that.

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