Intel to Use Bluetooth to Enhance Air Traffic Control for Drones

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【Summary】The safety protocol works by enabling constant, two-way communication between drones.

Michael Cheng    Aug 23, 2018 11:59 AM PT
Intel to Use Bluetooth to Enhance Air Traffic Control for Drones

With minimal aerial congestion in open fields and residential communities, flying drones can be a liberating experience. But what happens when adoption catches up and numerous drones start competing for space during flights? 

The results could be catastrophic, resulting in unwanted collisions and damaged quadcopters. To avoid such scenarios, Intel is testing a cutting-edge tracking solution using Bluetooth technology. Using the Open Drone ID standard, the feature enables UAVs to broadcast their location, so that other units in the air can avoid them in real-time.

Bluetooth for Drone Identification

The safety protocol works by enabling constant, two-way communication between drones. Static and dynamic data are transmitted at various frequencies. Furthermore, each quadcopter is equipped with its own ID for tracking. Location data is also broadcasted to the pilot or human operator.

"This application could be used to look for lost cattle, as well as learn more about the habits and tendencies of local wildlife," explained the company in an official statement.

The effectiveness of this safety feature depends on the Bluetooth version being used. When Bluetooth 4.0 is applied, the distance for reliable detection is maxed out at roughly 650 feet. On the other hand, when using Bluetooth 5.0, the maximum range is extended to 2,625 feet.

Commercial sites with powerful antennas, such as airports and military camps, should be able to exceed such ranges. It is important to factor in that this type of signal is capable of traveling farther in open-air locations. An advantage to using Bluetooth for drone safety is low adoption costs and streamlined implementation.

In crowded cities, this solution could be challenging to apply. This is because Bluetooth signal loses its strength when there are several obstructions, such as buildings and apartments, around the general location.

Open Drone ID

The Bluetooth-powered safety feature is part of Intel's open standard for UAVs called Open Drone ID. The tech giant showcased the standard at a demonstration facilitated by the FAA and the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. During the event, the company flew a group of customized Falcon 8+ drones and used beacon-like structures for wireless identification of quadcopters.

The type of data shared between drones and operators include the following: speed, direction, altitude, location, drone type/model and more.

Intel is pushing for the adoption of Open Drone ID as a safety standard, via the ASTM F38 Remote ID Standard and Tracking Workgroup. Should Open Drone ID receive proper recognition by regulators, the guidelines could improve scalability issues associated with managing drone fleets. The company has plans to expand Open Drone ID to cater to weather-tracking applications and include ground-based radars for portable use.

"I'm honored that Intel's Drone Group is participating in such critical programs to pave the way for new and expanded commercial UAS operations," said Anil Nanduri, Vice President and General Manager of the Intel drone team.

"By working with the US government, as well as various other industry partners, we can demonstrate the magnitude of a drone's potential when integrated into our nation's airspace in a responsible way."

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