“Sense And Avoid” Not Ready For Prime Time

By September 9, 2016 Blog
Sense and avoid, technology, UAVs, drones

Let’s talk a little about sense and avoid technology.  This is where your UAV will see an object and automatically maneuver itself to avoid hitting the object.  The UAV uses sonar and cameras to see its position relative to objects. Pretty cool, right? It seems over the past year or so, both DJI and Yuneec offer models with “Sense and Avoid”.  Amazon is also developing sense and avoid technology in order to safely deliver packages with their Amazon Prime Air drones.  In my opinion this technology in its current offering is merely a gimmick and is still far from perfect.

Here’s why I say this.  In any real world flying situation the current sense and avoid technology cannot process it’s environment fast enough to make it function.  GPSs and barometers aren’t fool-proof and simply put cannot be relied upon to make flight decisions.  This was proven when a YouTuber flew his Phantom 4 full speed at a chain link fence, the results we’re catastrophic and the Phantom hit the fence and disintegrated into little bits. Another video posted of the new Yuneec Typhoon H showed the technology being used to follow a skateboarder; a very slow moving skateboarder I must add.  It seems the only way for this tech to currently function is to fly very slowly and in a real world scenario this is not the likely.

Kudos to the manufacturers of these products to live on the cutting edge of tech, but let’s face it, in its current form sense and avoid is not ready for prime time practical applications.  I am, however, looking forward to what the future in UAV technology brings. Any technology that can make flying your UAV safer sounds like a positive to me. Until then, best to learn how to fly without running into stuff!

2 Comments

  • Joao says:

    Nice article, but allow me to disagree.
    At the several levels (mini, middle and large drones) there are already solutions, including solutions that can process the environment fast enough (my old company AEVO-CAS.com did sense&avoid for small drones with *lidar* data and everything running on a ARM A8 clocked at 1GHz).
    The problem why you do not see more mature solutions on the market is one of strategy: drone companies choose to develop their sense&avoid in-house instead of getting it from somewhee else -> “invest as little as possible and sell as expensive as possible”. The consequence is that they come up with solutions which are not as mature as solutions provided by companies 100% focused on sense&avoid technology.
    I imagine that, as soon as the profit margin made with the sense&avoid “gimmick” goes down, you will see a jump in the quality of the systems: it will not make sense economically to develop in-house and companies will get sense&avoid technology from outside (which are probably much better)

    • Flycam UAV says:

      While we were mostly referring to consumer UAVs it is nice to know that the technology has made great advancements and may soon be available to all UAVs. We agree that it would likely benefit consumer grade manufacturers to look for sense and avoid solutions outside their own company. Sometimes it’s best to let the experts do what they do best. Thank you for your comment and we appreciate the information you shared.

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