A futuristic city where a lot of drones fly across the streets might not be such futuristic. Two students from the UPV (Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Spain) have designed a network based on ground stations for drones. The European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) has recognised the project, which won the regional phase.
Hilari Pinedo, electronic engineer, and Ricardo Verdeguer, aeronautical engineer, are both the creative minds behind this innovative idea. These two young engineers analyzed the main challenges faced by this industry and they designed a complex network for drones which allows them to recharge the battery, to send and to receive date, the possibility to carry out periodical maintenance as well as to park the vehicle safely. As they explained, “if we think in the airports, we can realize that they play an important role in the aircraft´s performance. We want to offer the same possibilities to drones with ground stations. A functional installation is formed by several stations linked between them, it is a kind of handling network”.
One of the project´s main advantages is its flexibility in implementation. Even with plenty of possibilities still unexplored, their designers already pointed the touristic, sanitary and transportation sectors as their target. Hilari Pinedo commented “the stations would be very helpful guiding people along the cities. For instance, we could guide the citizens and tourists with drones flying around the most important landmarks. At the same time, if we equip them with cameras we can control an extensive vigilance network whenever it is needed”.
In the other hand, if we analyze the present sanitary procedures it calls the attention about how this idea can enormously contribute to reducing the current reaction times, which are crucial in most of the situations. In this line, Hilari Pinedo pointed that “in big cities, the drones could save a lot of lives by transporting sanitary materials, defibrillators and first aids kits. The drones have the capacity to fly avoiding the traffic in the urban areas. The fact that they are always available under these circumstances would be a huge advantage”.
Although the drones already are part of the skies in most cities across the world, the legislation regarding to their use, both recreational and professional, is still lagging behind.
Among all the subjects that need to be regulated, the ones that raise more concerns are related to privacy protection and the airspace management. An example is the prohibition of operating drones inside urban areas within the European Union if the take off weigh is greater than 150kg. This regulation, among many others, came directly determined by the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).
Despite the restrictive current legislation, the creators of this idea pointed that it is possible to increase safety rates through the maintenance and control of the vehicles in each station. They agreed on the possibility of their project in providing actual solutions in th future developments. “It is important to point that thanks to tracking and controlling all the operations, the accident risks are reduced, and the airspace safety increases substantially”, commented Hilari Pinedo.
The project was developed inside the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and it won the regional phase of the prestigious technological European project known as ESNC. The triumph has meant a huge international recognition for this couple of engineers. “When you work in an idea like this one, you always have some doubts about the quality of your work. However, when someone values your work and it is selected for a competition like this one, it gives you confidence and it reinforces the idea that you have created something interesting”, said Hilari Pinedo.
Regarding to next steps and roadmap, these two young engineers have no doubt, to continue working on a commercial application. “We are going to apply all the technical concepts that we already have developed in the stations and the current investigations to design a prototype that performs some of the most competitive advantages”, commented Hilari Pinedo. They count on the support from the university to develop a business plan and approach potential financial investors. However, they don’t hesitate to look for experts on this field in order to maximize the profit of their idea.