The UK consortium’s ‘Intelligent Drones for Port and Highways Technology’ (InDePTH) project has received government backing through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.
InDePTH forms part of the Future Flight Challenge Phase III programme delivered by Innovate UK on behalf of UKRI.
The project is led by a consortium of six partners – BT, Robok, HeroTech8, Associated British Ports (ABP), Kier and Connected Places Catapult.
As part of the project, the consortium is working together to build and test the use of drones to carry out automatic ‘beyond visual line of sight’ (BVLOS) missions to monitor and control critical national infrastructure such as highways and ports.
According to a recent release, the project will demonstrate value in three use case areas for ports and highways – including landside port operations and management, marine operations and highway safety and defect inspections.
The aim is to create efficient, low-carbon, cost-effective solutions for infrastructure management with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and showcase opportunities for ports and highways to use ‘drones as a service’.
Using AI and data analytics, the project will develop the InDePTH platform offering integration from UAS imagery, through operational systems, to actionable insights.
A key aim of the project is to enable near real-time data transfer from capture to insight generation.
“If we want to achieve leaps in Digital Transformation for Industry, we must embrace and develop the convergence of emerging innovative technologies, getting them working together seamlessly to deliver for end-users,” said Connor Lyons, Innovation Business Partner, ABP.
“This project directly tackles that convergence where drones carry out regular automated BVLOS flights, modern high bandwidth networking infrastructure streams live data and bespoke Computer Vision AI models process and compute data quickly at the edge.
“All of this working via automated systems to meet and improve the operational needs of the workers is critical to the UK economy and making big steps towards reducing carbon emissions.”
Digital twins of ports and highways will be built and used with real-time data from drones to give a rich picture of operations, incidents, and asset condition; AI will be applied to analyse drone imagery in several use cases.
Drone technology is increasingly expanding across the industry, as AD Ports recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide aerial drone delivery services in Abu Dhabi.
Together with partners, the company will collaborate on a trial programme that will deploy aerial drones to carry parcels and documents to specified Emirates Post sites across the emirate of Abu Dhabi.