October 11, 2017

‘Internet of Drones’ Adds AI

George Leopold

A startup has come up with a scheme for securely connecting drones to the cloud, effectively making them another cloud-based application and, the startup claims, the first “Internet of Drones” platform.

FlytBase Inc., a startup based in Redwood City, Calif., developing interfaces for connecting commercial drones, recently released an AI platform aimed at adding machine learning and other onboard intelligence to cloud-connected drones. Along with its drone API service, FlytBase said it designed a custom protocol used by its cloud platform to connect business applications hosted in the cloud in real time.

The scheme addresses specific drone requirements, it added. “Drone applications need real-time navigation, telemetry and payload access over a high-bandwidth secure link,” the startup explained in unveiling its aerial IoT. “Further, drones are often required to make several critical decisions onboard.”

FlytBase partnered with Built.io, the app developer specializing in Internet of Things solutions, to integrate drones with a range of business applications. The result is a platform designed to help developers build and deploy Internet of Drones services.

FlytBase is among a number of emerging commercial drone developers using cloud infrastructure and onboard processing such as GPUs to advance AI applications for drone fleets. For example, Avitas Systems unveiled its business plan last month for combining robotics, data analytics and AI for industrial inspection applications.

Other Internet of Drone applications include agriculture, construction, surveys and logistics (think pizza deliveres). The FlytBase cloud is designed to lower the barrier for entry, the startup said, while providing APIs and software kits for developing new applications and services.

Along with an assortment of RESTful APIs, FlytBase offers cloud access to drone controls, real-time telemetry and payload data. A weak link in drone deployments has been vulnerable RF communications that can be easily hacked. Hence, the startup also is offering a communications link with 256-bit encryption along with token-based authentication for sharing drone data and third-party services.

The Internet of Drones is being touted as allowing users to develop “customer workflows” such as integrating drones and databases with enterprise resource planning platforms to track inventories. The architecture makes use of machine learning advances to improve the processing data captured in aerial photos and video, including object detection and image classification.

The framework also is designed to manage fleets of drones used for applications such as product deliveries.

The drone APIs and development kits are incorporated in the startup’s FlytOS framework that runs on a range of processors including Nvidia’s (NASDAQ: NVDA) Jetson TX series and Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) Aero and Edison processors.

FlytBase said its drone platform also is designed to work with intermittent wireless links ranging from relatively robust 4G and LTE connections down to Wi-Fi, the company said.

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