Our Drones, Software and Working Mechanism
PROKURA INNOVATIONS, NEPAL
We here at Prokura Innovations are driven with a cumulative goal of solving the problem of last-mile delivery with drones. Our journey of drones started as a part of the Minor Project during our time in Engineering. We started out with multi-copters but later on realized that long-range flights were not possible with multi-copters owing to heavy battery consumption. We were able to achieve a maximum flight distance of 2km with multi-copters which is significantly low and not at all relevant for real-world application. Considering the higher speed and significantly less power consumption, we then switched to fixed-wing planes. However, it brought new challenges during takeoff and landing. It would require either a launcher or a runway system for takeoff. On top of that, we had to think of a whole different system just for landing. In addition, it lacked maneuverability, thus needing proper planning for sharp turns and landing. To alleviate the problem four extra motors were added to the system adding the capability of Vertical Takeoff and Landing in the drone, leading to the rise of Hybrid VTOL fixed-wing drones. WIth VTOLs all the hassles of fixed-wing were resolved, as it would take off and land in multi-copter mode and travel the rest of the mission in fixed-wing mode, providing the best of both worlds.
Bhangera is our first Hybrid VTOL drone capable of making a flight up to 10km carrying a payload of about 500gm. However, we are aiming for a higher target with Gauthali, which has been designed to cover a distance up to 60km carrying 1.5kg payload. We are also trying our hands-on tilt-rotor VTOLs given their efficiency, with Jureli, which however is still in the development phase and needs more work. The drones generate data that incorporates the real-time state information of the drone, terrain data, sensor readings, etc. The data is analyzed using the techniques of data science to find faults in the hardware and software. Data Science has enabled us to improve our technology by analyzing the crash reports and logs of our drone.
One of the major challenges for any drone manufacturer is Communication. The difficulty is even more when considering Beyond Visual Line of Sight. With the target of long-range medical delivery, our sights were set on delivery of more than 30km. But, the radio modules available in the market served considerably less distance. However, reliable communication is highly essential for a sustainable drone delivery system. With reliability in mind, we considered a redundant system consisting of a cellular LTE network and a mesh radio network, whereby if one form of communication failed other would provide relentless stable communication. While the attempt for a radio mesh network is still going on, wIth cellular-based networks a stable communication can be established from anywhere within the country as long as it is connected to a base station.
HIVE (http://dms.prokurainnovations.com), is a Drone Management System tailored for package delivery aiding the users with features to view current drone status, mission planning, inventory management tools, delivery statistics. It is a cloud-based web application for managing and monitoring the drone network. With the primary goal of linking remote health posts to a facilitated distribution system, HIVE has been structured as a portal that guides users from the very initiation of order from remote health posts to the final delivery of the order. This application is a control panel for admins in the central distribution center to manage the drones, their issues, the users, the inventory of medicines in the central distribution center, event logs, weather, etc, and monitor their location and sensor status in real-time. It also allows users to observe real-time data of deliveries with their graphical representation. A supplementary mobile-based Inventory Management App (IMS), can also be used to store and manage the inventory specifically medicines in the remote health posts. A user can add, update, delete and display the inventory in addition to adding medicines to a cart and order them from the central distribution center. The user can order the items via call or messages or over the internet. The order placed from IMS is recorded in HIVE, and dedicated personnel will initiate the delivery process.
The application of HIVE isn’t just limited to drone monitoring for medical delivery. The basic objective of the idea is to provide a platform-as-a-service to drones. The current scenario is that if someone wants to build a drone delivery service, they would have to build all the software, hardware, take care of the integrations and risk management which would be more cumbersome during future pandemics when everything would have to be done within a short period of time. What we are proposing is that those organizations that have a set of drones or building from our open-sourced designs will be able to rapidly deploy them in our platform and use our services to manage, control, and monitor the drones, manage the inventories involved in the delivery and use our tools and designs for establishing communication infrastructure and integrate them with their respective Civil Aviation Authorities. We would not only provide the drone delivery service ourselves but also would like to empower other organizations or companies willing to provide drone delivery service in different parts of the world by providing them our robust platform and tools so that they will be able to start their operation quickly which is a significant improvement to the existing approaches where they are limited and compatible to their own products.
Since this is the age of intelligence we have also been working to make our drones smarter with machine learning. As a starter, we are working on landing zone detection for precision landing in difficult terrains. We are using machine learning to train a deep learning architecture to detect landing zones and use navigation algorithms to precisely land the drone.
Our journey with drones has been full of highs and lows. With each dreadful crash, we’ve had our morale hit rock bottom and redo the work from the ground up. With every drone, we cannot express the feeling we had, when it took its first flight, after multiple cycles of failure. All the hardships have led us to where we are and we are very excited for what the future unfolds.