There’s a very good chance that drone sightings will be common in the skies above most major cities as they’re put to use in commercial applications like last mile and medical deliveries, traffic management, supporting firefighters and inspection services. NXP is researching innovative solutions for keeping that traffic safe from collisions and hackers.
The challenge is complex, considering the risks. Drones need to avoid one another and land, takeoff and navigate in potentially cluttered and often uncertain spaces filled with moving and stationary obstacles. They must be impervious to illicit intrusions, whether from bad actors who might want to control them, or hackers interested in stealing the data they use or collect.
And, because a majority of them will need to operate autonomously, beyond the line-of-sight of human controllers, drones need to be able to sense, process and respond to situations, as well as communicate with manned aviation (both in-air and ground control). The market for such drones is expected to grow by 25% every year between now and 2029 when it will reach over US$34 billion.
In a UDVeo consortium project, we investigate inter-vehicle communication for conflict avoidance and real time tracking as well as enabling airspace integration with manned aircraft using our proven 802.11p D2X technology (standardized tech that also enables vehicle-to-infrastructure [V2X] communications for vehicles on the road), together with the widely adopted PX4 open source flight and vehicle stack from the Dronecode foundation .
Some of the areas we’re researching with UDVeo and through other projects include:
- Authentication — Giving drones a hardware “secure element” so that each drone’s identification is validated and only interacts with authorized users (much like the tech used to identify documents and credit cards). Secure elements on board the vehicle can also be used to validate and secure each component (i.e a GPS module) that makes up the larger system.
- Avoidance — Exploring “anti-collision transponders” that rely on precise, real-time communications to exchange positioning information, while also preparing for what’s out-of-sight through sophisticated reflections analysis able to anticipate and trigger safe movements in crowded airspaces (much like we’ll experience during Level 5 autonomous driving).
- Low Latency — Finding ways to enable fast direct communication and reconnection of dropped signals between drones that approach at extremely high speeds while reducing exposure to hackers.
- Teams — Testing methods for drone-to-drone communication so multiple units can collaborate on tasks, such as search-and-rescue or maintenance work.
Our goal is that this work will support and inform air space regulation that will help manage drone traffic, as well as spur additional technological innovation that will keep them safely in the skies of a city near you.
Here is more information on NXP drone projects:
- City-ATM with DLR:
- Air2X with DLR
- UDVeo with HSU, DLR, Consider-IT and others
- MyGalileoDrone with Consider-IT
Explore more on safety at Aerospace and Mobile Robotics page.