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Unmanned Systems & Drones

2017 – The year of the commercial drone

Consumer drone hype is followed by the victory of the multicopters in the economy. Their abilities are growing as quickly as their areas of use.

28 Feb. 2017

They find the victims of earthquakes, fight fires, inspect damage in agriculture, and take inventory in forest areas. Drones are entering more and more areas of use. A forecast from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP suggests that the global market for commercial drones may reach a value of 115 million euros by 2020. These expectations are also shared by large concerns, as is shown by the drone activities of Amazon, DHL, and Airbus.

Intel is relying on unmanned flight models. Two German drone manufacturers (MAVinci & Ascending Technologies) have been purchased by the chip giant in the last few months. MAVinci from St. Leon-Rot produces surveying drones and their software. The Bavarian multi-rotor drone specialist Ascending Technologies (AscTec) is strongly represented in oil, gas, and energy management. Together with Intel, AscTec last developed the Falcon 8+ quadrocopter. Matthias Beldzik, manager at Intel Germany, considers the drones "virtually flying computers that are smart and networked, and follow Moore’s law." This means that their abilities must continue to become more diverse, while they must continue to become smaller. "Drones therefore will be one of the great computing platforms of the future and will open up entirely new areas of innovation," says Beldzik in an interview with Grü "The year 2016 was the year of the consumer drone," Intel's manager says. "In the future we will see more being developed in the area of the commercial drones."

Gigantic business potential

"Drones and unmanned systems on land and water have huge business potential," confirms Oliver Frese, director of Deutsche Messe AG. As a result, CeBIT is clearly expanding this subject field. "After the successful premiere in 2016, we created a top international event for technologies and solutions around unmanned systems with a focus on Unmanned systems and solutions ," explains the trade-fair organizer. About 100,000 visitors were interested in the offer in 2016. "Unmanned Systems & Solutions will be a visitor magnet in 2017 as well," Oliver Frese expects. The CeBIT focus in hall 17 consists of an exhibition, a flight show, and a conference. The focus is on business applications that currently stretch from logistics and measuring technology to agriculture and forestry, through the police and fire brigade, to trade and medicine. Potential future fields for the conference are the Internet of Things, big data applications, communication and infrastructure solutions, as well as research and development.

Chinese manufacturer Yuneec (hall 17, stand A54) is mostly looking at the field of emergency rescue as its main market. The company has made a name for itself with remote-controlled model airplanes and ultra-lightweight airplanes in the last 15 years. By now, its camera-equipped quadrocopters help the fire brigade, emergency squads, coast guards, and police forces to obtain an overview and overcome obstacles. Yuneec’s "Typhoon H" is deemed one of the best flying robots. It recognizes obstacles and can evade them independently.

Developing tomorrow's markets

Globe UAV GmbH (hall 17, stand E26) from Delbrück does not use a classic remote control for its GUAV8 drone, but computer, keyboard, mouse, and the cell phone network. Within an operating radius of 30 km and a flight time of up to 60 minutes, the drone supplies aerial views and environmental data in real time. One example of effective work with the system would enable the operator, among others, to transfer video data to other mobile end devices (e.g., during police action).

With its night vision function, the drone can also be used in the dark – e.g., to observe or to track. The police forces thus acquire an additional tool for following perpetrators. The thermal imaging camera can also help to recognize defective solar panels and wind turbines that have run hot, or to find missing persons.

Globe UAV drones can also be used for the maintenance of industrial facilities, pipelines, and power lines, along with forestry and agricultural areas.
Spectair (hall 17, C08) considers itself a "pioneer in the flying robot industry." Since 2012, the service provider from Meerbusch has supported customers with project planning through to the professional control of drones and the preparation of raw data from aerial recordings. Spectair offers sensor and camera technology for the purpose of inspection, mapping, and surveying, for vegetation and environmental monitoring, and for film and photo productions. Spectair’s target is to become "the globally leading provider of drone services" and a market leader in the training of professional drone pilots.

In addition to flight units in action, hall 17 will also present solutions for the development and operation of unmanned systems. The young Hamburg company Kleenex (partner of BUVUS for the conference; C08) provides one example for this. It develops professional air control and UAV management software that it combines with interactive tools "in order to develop the online markets of tomorrow." The "Pixhawk," for example, is an autopilot system developed by the PX4 Open Hardware project. Produced by 3D Robotics, the Pixhawk has the latest processor and sensor technology by ST Microelectronics® and a NuttX real-time operating system for the control of autonomous vehicles. At CeBIT, Kleenex will present some first-use cases in the thermography of photovoltaic systems, power plant inspection, or the mapping of industrial areas.