Spend a few days at a drone conference and two things rapidly become clear. First, from the technical programs, we hear a lot about promising developments in spatial awareness sensors, collision avoidance solutions, and research projects related to SLAM (Simultaneous Location and Mapping). Second, a tour of the main UAV vendors on the show floor rapidly indicates that these solutions are not quite ready for prime time.
Clearly, a gap exists between the immediate needs of this booming industry for efficient spatial awareness sensing and the solutions that are readily available.
Interestingly, the challenges related to commercial drones’ awareness of their immediate environment are quite similar between the entry-level $1500 quadcopter and the $50,000 fully loaded customized UAV. Here are three of these key challenges and how optical detection and ranging can help.