The availability of low-altitude, commodity drones have created unprecedented opportunities for their application in various civil sectors such as reef health monitoring, precision agriculture, wireless communication provisioning and remote sensing. However, their reliance on the on-board, limited capacity battery hinders the true potential of these useful, and at times, lifesaving services. This is particularly true for the small consumer UAVs that have a flight time of 20-30 minutes when their batteries are fully charged. This research project focuses on devising solutions to extend the flight times to achieve mission continuity as required by the applications.
CQUniversity's flight time extension research into Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) could ultimately save lives. With the growing urbanisation, the use of terrestrial and underground space is being saturated for providing various services, although the aerial space remains under-utilised due to the lack of longer-term flights of commodity drones to provide services. With the development of techniques and technologies to extend flight times of such drones, better usage of aerial space in the smart cities will be possible.
Dr Jahan Hassan
The drone must not die so the patient can live – that is the vision behind CQUniversity's research on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flight-time extension.
Dr Jahan Hassan says more research is required to combat energy limitations of UAVs (such as drones) in order to support the ever-growing commercial applications.
'In recent years, there has been tremendous development of the UAVs due to their integration with advanced technologies of robotics, sensing, wireless communication and AI, enabling them to autonomously interact with the physical world,' lead researcher Dr Hassan explains.
'Coupled with the falling cost of low-altitude commodity drones, drone-delivered services in the civilian and commercial sectors have seen an unprecedented growth – from emergency medical delivery to powerline monitoring, precision agriculture, and wireless communication provisioning.
'However, UAVs' reliance on the on-board batteries for power, limits their flight times which is around 20 minutes for commodity drones. This poses a significant challenge on the continuity of drone-delivered services, since the drones would frequently move away from the serving location to get their batteries replaced or recharged on a ground charging station.'
Imagine an emergency medical delivery drone turning back midway to replace its battery.
'As such, we are developing solutions to combat the energy limitations of UAVs with both energy-efficient, intelligent algorithms for flight and communication optimisation, and the topping up of UAV batteries from in-situ, aerial wireless power sources using wireless power transfer techniques.'
Now in phase two of the research, the team is looking at how to enhance the efficiency of the proposed solutions from stage one of the research, as well as to investigate requirements for practical deployment.
'The potential of innovative, drone delivered services is enormous,' Dr Hassan explains.
'This is reflected in a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has estimated the commercial global market for drone-delivered services to be over $127 billion. This potential is limited by the short flight times of the drones which disrupts the service continuity. For these services to reach the true potential, the energy issue of drones must be addressed which is why we conduct this research.'
Dr Hassan says the research team, which also consists of CQUniversity's Dr Ayub Bokani and Dr Sayed Amir Hosseini and Professor Salil Kanhere from the University of New South Wales, was currently in the theoretical phase.
'This involves the development of intelligent algorithms for energy source placement, flight path, and wireless communication management. We use various machine learning techniques to optimise these solutions, and conduct experiments using MATLAB,' she explains.
Dr Hassan says findings from the current research would benefit both governments and the commercial sectors.
'Governments would benefit from the findings of this research in applications of drones including disastermonitoring- particularly in areas where communication infrastructure would currently be lost such as bushfire management and reef monitoring.
'Commercial companies in the business of goods delivery, infrastructure providers in powerline or bridge monitoring, aerial photography, emergency medical delivery, mobile communication provisioning would also greatly benefit from this research.'
Connect with CQUniversity
At CQUniversity we know the value of our connections locally and around the world. Our partnerships help us create opportunities, deliver solutions and change lives. From time to time, we share our Connections Count update where we share our highlights, including research impact stories like the ones below. Sign up to become one of our valued connections.