A Silicon Valley drone software startup and a Portuguese smart city tech provider have come up with a way of building drone infrastructure networks by retrofitting existing streetlights.
By using FlytBase’s drone automation software, Omniflow has introduced a drone charging hub to its smart pole product, Omniled, which has the potential to be deployed anywhere with lampposts.
Omniled is a solar- and wind-powered attachment that can be fitted to the top of streetlights. With battery storage, ultra-efficient LEDs, 5G connectivity, cameras and public wi-fi, Omniled can transform them into multi-functional, sustainable smart devices.
Teaming up with FlytBase, Omniflow introduced a drone docking and charging pad to Omniled. FlytBase’s software enables drone service providers to remotely control their drones and the docking pads.
The software can be used to plan and schedule repeatable missions and set failsafe actions that are automatically triggered during emergencies and incidents.
One of the key features of the software, FlytBase said, is its precision landing module, which accurately aligns, approaches and lands drones on the charging pad.
Pedro Ruão, co-founder and CEO of Omniflow, said: “Every Omniflow smart pole can be at any given time upgraded to host the drone charging pad and 5G so we will be able to create sustainable networks and highways for autonomous drone services.”
In a presentation about the product, Ruão said the initial target market is in emergency response, but that a drone network built on Omniled devices will also target deliveries and security services.
He added: “We believe that the electrification of drones and autonomous drone missions will be scaling in the near term, so we are preparing our solutions so they [streetlights] can be retrofitted to house the drone charging pad and then provide all kinds of services.”
An IKEA in Matosinhos, Portugal was able to cut its energy consumption on outdoor lighting by 94% – with a four-year return on investment – by replacing the lights outside with Omniled, Ruão said. Since the system is solar and wind powered and includes battery storage, it only has to dip into the grid when the battery is empty.
The collaboration with Flytbase means that places like that IKEA could now support drone launch pads and refuelling stations with minimal changes to the infrastructure they already have.
Achal Negi, director of business development at FlytBase, said: “We’re heading to an age where aerial autonomy will be seamlessly integrated into our lives.”