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by Sigal Gafni, spokeswoman, ISBU – Israel Security Business Union (for HLS & Cyber CEOs) – images from contributor.

The ubiquity of drones is becoming hard to ignore, and as the technology improves and cost to entry into the market inevitably comes down, the number of drones in the sky is guaranteed to increase. Sales of consumer-level drones in the US surpassed $1.25 billion in 2020, and Markets Insider predicts that the drone-related services will be bringing in $63.6 billion by 2025. It’s expected that drone growth will occur across a number of main segments, including: retail delivery, agriculture, construction, insurance, media/telecom and law enforcement. The arrival of an airborne traffic jam is hard to ignore, but unlike 20th century traffic, you can’t just pull off to the side of the road if you have an accident.

A looming safety crisis
The essential ingredient in preventing the kind of safety hazard that increasing drone use represents is developing a robust and reliable navigation standard that can keep mid-air collisions from occurring. Presently, the most common form of navigation is GPS signaling.

Currently, GPS signaling suffers from a few weaknesses that preclude it from being a long-term solution as the drone population grows. Without GPS/GNSS service, these drones can begin flying blind and even rendered useless. Some of the issues that could cause this to happen include:

  • Density of multi-path use, especially in urban areas – Drone use will expand in virtually all sectors, and drone traffic in high-density environments will begin to pose a serious safety hazard to those on the ground.
  • Increased electromagnetic interference, especially on GNSS bands – Bandwidths are filling up quickly and tying a growing drone fleet to the same GNSS band is a recipe for disaster, even when there is no GNSS interference. With interference, signals will be interrupted, and control of the skies will be lost.
  • Deliberate GNSS spoofing or jamming (deliberate or defensive) – As drone platforms become more common, so too will the equipment and expertise required to operate them. This opens up the possibility of spoofing or jamming by bad actors or simply those who would prefer to keep their skies clear of drone traffic.
  • Increased regulatory presence – While this won’t render a drone useless in the sky, it could very well make sure that it never leaves the ground. It’s not long before regulatory bodies begin to step in and insist on stronger measure to ensure public safety. Any future technologies will need to prove their accuracy and reliability in order to gain approval for flight.

One avenue for dealing with this coming crisis is a multi-system approach that seeks to reinforce GPS navigation with other onboard systems like SLAM and INS. These can be helpful, but they would only start where GNSS ends, and there is the technical issue of deciding when to make the switch between navigation systems and how that switch would be made. This issue is further exacerbated when you being to consider adding more and different systems into this framework. For each different system that you choose to include, you could potentially need a new architecture and software framework for each custom loadout.

Keep it simple – and trust what you can see
The best solution to this rapidly approaching problem would be a simple, robust technology that offers precision, reliability and a design that’s agile enough to be adopted across platforms, applications and industries. That solution exists, and it’s called NavGuard.
NavGuard provides a solution to this problem unreliable drone navigation. Developed by Asio Technologies, an experienced contractor in the arena of navigation systems and related technologies for the defence sector, NavGuard is a self-contained, real-time optical navigation system that allows for GNSS-free navigation based on an on-board Geo infrastructure.

This camera-based visual situation awareness can be used from take-off to landing. NavGuard turns off-the-shelf camera into a sensor that almost any drone can use to navigate as a replacement to GPS/GNSS.

In a recent field test, Blue White Robotics successfully completed sUAS flight trials while under GPS satellite interference and jamming using Asio’s NavGuard. This test was sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Transportation, Israel Innovation Authority and Israel Civil Aviation Authority.

Initially developed for defence applications, NavGuard is positioned to become the industry standard for drone navigation. The user-friendly, self-contained qualities of NavGuard’s architecture are an easy fit as this application moves into civilian arenas. For commercial delivery services, consumer, or local-government applications, NavGuard’s benefits are designed to allow it to operate almost anywhere.

The benefits of the NavGuard platform include:
• Low weight
• Low power requirements
• Low latency
• High accuracy with no drift
• Fully resistant to jamming, interruptions and interference
• Easy interface and simple mechanical systems
• Everything you need is integrated into the NavGuard onboard architecture

Self-contained architecture – computing module, GIS infrastructure and cameras under a single, protective housing. It’s small enough to fit on medium-to-large sized drones, and it’s easily compatible with a simple mechanical interface. The weight won’t affect cargo-hauling capacity for delivery-oriented applications, and the power-consumption won’t substantially tax flight time or maximum power output.

As safety, reliability, and cost of drone navigation systems come under ever-increasing scrutiny, it’s clear that NavGuard is poised to offer a solution that will open up the drone market to a whole new generation of industries and applications.