Editor’s Choice Articles

Editor’s Choice articles are based on recommendations by the scientific editors of MDPI journals from around the world. Editors select a small number of articles recently published in the journal that they believe will be particularly interesting to readers, or important in the respective research area. The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the various research areas of the journal.

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18 pages, 4298 KiB  
Article
Large-Sized Multirotor Design: Accurate Modeling with Aerodynamics and Optimization for Rotor Tilt Angle
by Anhuan Xie, Xufei Yan, Weisheng Liang, Shiqiang Zhu and Zheng Chen
Drones 2023, 7(10), 614; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7100614 - 29 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1311
Abstract
Advancements in aerial mobility (AAM) are driven by needs in transportation, logistics, rescue, and disaster relief. Consequently, large-sized multirotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with strong power and ample space show great potential. In order to optimize the design process for large-sized multirotors and [...] Read more.
Advancements in aerial mobility (AAM) are driven by needs in transportation, logistics, rescue, and disaster relief. Consequently, large-sized multirotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with strong power and ample space show great potential. In order to optimize the design process for large-sized multirotors and reduce physical trial and error, a detailed dynamic model is firstly established, with an accurate aerodynamic model. In addition, the center of gravity (CoG) offset and actuator dynamics are also well considered, which are usually ignored in small-sized multirotors. To improve the endurance and maneuverability of large-sized multirotors, which is the key concern in real applications, a two-loop optimization method for rotor tilt angle design is proposed based on the mathematical model established previously. Its inner loop solves the dynamic equilibrium points to relax the complex dynamic constraints caused by aerodynamics in the overall optimization problem, which improves the solution efficiency. The ideal design results can be obtained through the offline process, which greatly reduces the difficulties of physical trial and error. Finally, various experiments are carried out to demonstrate the accuracy of the established model and the effectiveness of the optimization method. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Optimal Design, Dynamics, and Navigation of Drones)
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20 pages, 16424 KiB  
Article
Estimating Maize Maturity by Using UAV Multi-Spectral Images Combined with a CCC-Based Model
by Zhao Liu, Huapeng Li, Xiaohui Ding, Xinyuan Cao, Hui Chen and Shuqing Zhang
Drones 2023, 7(9), 586; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7090586 - 19 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1273
Abstract
Measuring maize grain moisture content (GMC) variability at maturity provides an essential piece of information for the formulation of maize harvesting sequences and the applications of precision agriculture. Canopy chlorophyll content (CCC) is an important parameter that describes crop growth, photosynthetic rate, health, [...] Read more.
Measuring maize grain moisture content (GMC) variability at maturity provides an essential piece of information for the formulation of maize harvesting sequences and the applications of precision agriculture. Canopy chlorophyll content (CCC) is an important parameter that describes crop growth, photosynthetic rate, health, and senescence. The main goal of this study was to estimate maize GMC at maturity through CCC retrieved from multi-spectral UAV images using a PROSAIL model inversion and compare its performance with GMC estimation through simple vegetation indices (VIs) approaches. This study was conducted in two separate maize fields of 50.3 and 56 ha located in Hailun County, Heilongjiang Province, China. Each of the fields was cultivated with two maize varieties. One field was used as reference data for constructing the model, and the other field was applied to validate. The leaf chlorophyll content (LCC) and leaf area index (LAI) of maize were collected at three critical stages of crop growth, and meanwhile, the GMC of maize at maturity was also obtained. During the collection of field data, a UAV flight campaign was performed to obtain multi-spectral images from two fields at three main crop growth stages. In order to calibrate and evaluate the PROSAIL model for obtaining maize CCC, crop canopy spectral reflectance was simulated using crop-specific parameters. In addition, various VIs were computed from multi-spectral images to estimate maize GMC at maturity and compare the results with CCC estimations. When the CCC-retrieved results were compared to measured data, the R2 value was 0.704, the RMSE was 34.58 μg/cm2, and the MAE was 26.27 μg/cm2. The estimation accuracy of the maize GMC based on the normalized red edge index (NDRE) was demonstrated to be the greatest among the selected VIs in both fields, with R2 values of 0.6 and 0.619, respectively. Although the VIs of UAV inversion GMC accuracy are lower than those of CCC, their rapid acquisition, high spatial and temporal resolution, suitability for empirical models, and capture of growth differences within the field are still helpful techniques for field-scale crop monitoring. We found that maize varieties are the main reason for the maturity variation of maize under the same geographical and environmental conditions. The method described in this article enables precision agriculture based on UAV remote sensing by giving growers a spatial reference for crop maturity at the field scale. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances of UAV in Precision Agriculture)
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15 pages, 3112 KiB  
Article
Impacts of Drone Flight Altitude on Behaviors and Species Identification of Marsh Birds in Florida
by Jeremy P. Orange, Ronald R. Bielefeld, William A. Cox and Andrea L. Sylvia
Drones 2023, 7(9), 584; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7090584 - 16 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1384
Abstract
Unmanned aerial vehicles (hereafter drones) are rapidly replacing manned aircraft as the preferred tool used for aerial wildlife surveys, but questions remain about which survey protocols are most effective and least impactful on wildlife behaviors. We evaluated the effects of drone overflights on [...] Read more.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (hereafter drones) are rapidly replacing manned aircraft as the preferred tool used for aerial wildlife surveys, but questions remain about which survey protocols are most effective and least impactful on wildlife behaviors. We evaluated the effects of drone overflights on nontarget species to inform the development of a Florida mottled duck (MODU; Anas fulvigula fulvigula) survey. Our objectives were to (1) evaluate the effect of flight altitude on the behavior of marsh birds, (2) evaluate the effect of altitude on a surveyor’s ability to identify the species of detected birds, and (3) test protocols for upcoming MODU surveys. We flew 120 continuously moving transects at altitudes ranging from 12 to 91 m and modeled variables that influenced detection, species identification, and behavior of nontarget species. Few marsh birds were disturbed during drone flights, but we were unable to confidently detect birds at the two highest altitudes, and we experienced difficulties identifying the species of birds detected in video collected at 30 m. Our findings indicate that MODUs could be surveyed at altitudes as low as 12–30 m with minimal impact to adjacent marsh birds and that larger-bodied nontarget marsh species can be identified from videos collected during MODU drone surveys. Full article
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34 pages, 20980 KiB  
Article
Go with the Flow: Estimating Wind Using Uncrewed Aircraft
by Marc D. Compere, Kevin A. Adkins and Avinash Muthu Krishnan
Drones 2023, 7(9), 564; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7090564 - 01 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2406
Abstract
This paper presents a fundamentally different approach to wind estimation using Uncrewed Aircraft (UA) than the vast majority of existing methods. This method uses no on-board flow sensor and does not attempt to estimate thrust or drag forces. Using only GPS and orientation [...] Read more.
This paper presents a fundamentally different approach to wind estimation using Uncrewed Aircraft (UA) than the vast majority of existing methods. This method uses no on-board flow sensor and does not attempt to estimate thrust or drag forces. Using only GPS and orientation sensors, the strategy estimates wind vectors in an Earth-fixed frame during turning maneuvers. The method presented here is called the Wind-Arc method. The philosophy behind this method has been seen in practice, but this paper presents an alternative derivation with resulting performance evaluations in simulations and flight tests. The simulations verify the method provides perfect performance under ideal conditions using simulated GPS, heading angle, and satisfied assumptions. When applied to experimental flight test data, the method works and follows both the airspeed and wind speed trends, but improvements can still be made. Wind triangles are displayed at each instant in time along the flight path that illustrate the graphical nature of the approach and solution. Future work will include wind gust estimation and a Quality of Estimate (QoE) metric to determine what conditions provide good wind speed estimates while preserving the method’s generality and simplicity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Weather Impacts on Uncrewed Aircraft)
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24 pages, 489 KiB  
Review
Advanced Air Mobility and Evolution of Mobile Networks
by Lechosław Tomaszewski and Robert Kołakowski
Drones 2023, 7(9), 556; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7090556 - 29 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1296
Abstract
Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) is a promising field of services based on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which aims to provide people and cargo transportation services in underserved areas. The recent advancements in the fields of aviation and mobile telecommunication networks have opened up [...] Read more.
Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) is a promising field of services based on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which aims to provide people and cargo transportation services in underserved areas. The recent advancements in the fields of aviation and mobile telecommunication networks have opened up multiple opportunities for the development of disruptive AAM applications. This paper presents the overview and identifies the major requirements of emerging AAM use cases to confront them with the features provided by the 5G System (5GS), which is commonly considered the key enabler in providing commercial AAM services. The major benefits, gaps, and issues regarding using 5GS to serve AAM operations are identified and discussed. Finally, the future perspectives for AAM services are outlined with a focus on the potential benefit that can be provided as the mobile network evolves towards 6G. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue AAM Integration: Strategic Insights and Goals)
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25 pages, 1672 KiB  
Article
Drone-Based Environmental Emergency Response in the Brazilian Amazon
by Janiele Custodio and Hernan Abeledo
Drones 2023, 7(9), 554; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7090554 - 27 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1342
Abstract
This paper introduces a location–allocation model to support environmental emergency response strategic planning using a drone-based network. Drones are used to verify potential emergencies, gathering additional information to support emergency response missions when time and resources are limited. The resulting discrete facility location–allocation [...] Read more.
This paper introduces a location–allocation model to support environmental emergency response strategic planning using a drone-based network. Drones are used to verify potential emergencies, gathering additional information to support emergency response missions when time and resources are limited. The resulting discrete facility location–allocation model with mobile servers assumes a centralized network operated out of sight by first responders and government agents. The optimization problem seeks to find the minimal cost configuration that meets operational constraints and performance objectives. To test the practical applicability of the proposed model, a real-life case study was implemented for the municipality of Ji-Paraná, in the Brazilian Amazon, using demand data from a mobile whistle-blower application and from satellite imagery projects that monitor deforestation and fire incidents in the region. Experiments are performed to understand the model’s sensitivity to various demand scenarios and capacity restrictions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue UAV IoT Sensing and Networking)
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21 pages, 7349 KiB  
Article
Stepwise Soft Actor–Critic for UAV Autonomous Flight Control
by Ha Jun Hwang, Jaeyeon Jang, Jongkwan Choi, Jung Ho Bae, Sung Ho Kim and Chang Ouk Kim
Drones 2023, 7(9), 549; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7090549 - 24 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1717
Abstract
Despite the growing demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the use of conventional UAVs is limited, as most of them require being remotely operated by a person who is not within the vehicle’s field of view. Recently, many studies have introduced reinforcement learning [...] Read more.
Despite the growing demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the use of conventional UAVs is limited, as most of them require being remotely operated by a person who is not within the vehicle’s field of view. Recently, many studies have introduced reinforcement learning (RL) to address hurdles for the autonomous flight of UAVs. However, most previous studies have assumed overly simplified environments, and thus, they cannot be applied to real-world UAV operation scenarios. To address the limitations of previous studies, we propose a stepwise soft actor–critic (SeSAC) algorithm for efficient learning in a continuous state and action space environment. SeSAC aims to overcome the inefficiency of learning caused by attempting challenging tasks from the beginning. Instead, it starts with easier missions and gradually increases the difficulty level during training, ultimately achieving the final goal. We also control a learning hyperparameter of the soft actor–critic algorithm and implement a positive buffer mechanism during training to enhance learning effectiveness. Our proposed algorithm was verified in a six-degree-of-freedom (DOF) flight environment with high-dimensional state and action spaces. The experimental results demonstrate that the proposed algorithm successfully completed missions in two challenging scenarios, one for disaster management and another for counter-terrorism missions, while surpassing the performance of other baseline approaches. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Drone Design and Development)
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22 pages, 11112 KiB  
Article
An Evaluation of Sun-Glint Correction Methods for UAV-Derived Secchi Depth Estimations in Inland Water Bodies
by Edvinas Tiškus, Martynas Bučas, Diana Vaičiūtė, Jonas Gintauskas and Irma Babrauskienė
Drones 2023, 7(9), 546; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7090546 - 23 Aug 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1283
Abstract
This study investigates the application of unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with a Micasense RedEdge-MX multispectral camera for the estimation of Secchi depth (SD) in inland water bodies. The research analyzed and compared five sun-glint correction methodologies—Hedley, Goodman, Lyzenga, Joyce, and threshold-removed glint—to [...] Read more.
This study investigates the application of unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with a Micasense RedEdge-MX multispectral camera for the estimation of Secchi depth (SD) in inland water bodies. The research analyzed and compared five sun-glint correction methodologies—Hedley, Goodman, Lyzenga, Joyce, and threshold-removed glint—to model the SD values derived from UAV multispectral imagery, highlighting the role of reflectance accuracy and algorithmic precision in SD modeling. While Goodman’s method showed a higher correlation (0.92) with in situ SD measurements, Hedley’s method exhibited the smallest average deviation (0.65 m), suggesting its potential in water resource management, environmental monitoring, and ecological modeling. The study also underscored the quasi-analytical algorithm (QAA) potential in estimating SD due to its flexibility to process data from various sensors without requiring in situ measurements, offering scalability for large-scale water quality surveys. The accuracy of SD measures calculated using QAA was related to variability in water constituents of colored dissolved organic matter and the solar zenith angle. A practical workflow for SD acquisition using UAVs and multispectral data is proposed for monitoring inland water bodies. Full article
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23 pages, 46577 KiB  
Article
Drone-YOLO: An Efficient Neural Network Method for Target Detection in Drone Images
by Zhengxin Zhang
Drones 2023, 7(8), 526; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7080526 - 11 Aug 2023
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 6734
Abstract
Object detection in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery is a meaningful foundation in various research domains. However, UAV imagery poses unique challenges, including large image sizes, small sizes detection objects, dense distribution, overlapping instances, and insufficient lighting impacting the effectiveness of object detection. [...] Read more.
Object detection in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery is a meaningful foundation in various research domains. However, UAV imagery poses unique challenges, including large image sizes, small sizes detection objects, dense distribution, overlapping instances, and insufficient lighting impacting the effectiveness of object detection. In this article, we propose Drone-YOLO, a series of multi-scale UAV image object detection algorithms based on the YOLOv8 model, designed to overcome the specific challenges associated with UAV image object detection. To address the issues of large scene sizes and small detection objects, we introduce improvements to the neck component of the YOLOv8 model. Specifically, we employ a three-layer PAFPN structure and incorporate a detection head tailored for small-sized objects using large-scale feature maps, significantly enhancing the algorithm’s capability to detect small-sized targets. Furthermore, we integrate the sandwich-fusion module into each layer of the neck’s up–down branch. This fusion mechanism combines network features with low-level features, providing rich spatial information about the objects at different layer detection heads. We achieve this fusion using depthwise separable evolution, which balances parameter costs and a large receptive field. In the network backbone, we employ RepVGG modules as downsampling layers, enhancing the network’s ability to learn multi-scale features and outperforming traditional convolutional layers. The proposed Drone-YOLO methods have been evaluated in ablation experiments and compared with other state-of-the-art approaches on the VisDrone2019 dataset. The results demonstrate that our Drone-YOLO (large) outperforms other baseline methods in the accuracy of object detection. Compared to YOLOv8, our method achieves a significant improvement in mAP0.5 metrics, with a 13.4% increase on the VisDrone2019-test and a 17.40% increase on the VisDrone2019-val. Additionally, the parameter-efficient Drone-YOLO (tiny) with only 5.25 M parameters performs equivalently or better than the baseline method with 9.66M parameters on the dataset. These experiments validate the effectiveness of the Drone-YOLO methods in the task of object detection in drone imagery. Full article
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24 pages, 10632 KiB  
Article
Automatic Real-Time Creation of Three-Dimensional (3D) Representations of Objects, Buildings, or Scenarios Using Drones and Artificial Intelligence Techniques
by Jorge Cujó Blasco, Sergio Bemposta Rosende and Javier Sánchez-Soriano
Drones 2023, 7(8), 516; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7080516 - 05 Aug 2023
Viewed by 3104
Abstract
This work presents the development and evaluation of a real-time 3D reconstruction system using drones. The system leverages innovative artificial intelligence techniques in photogrammetry and computer vision (CDS-MVSNet and DROID-SLAM) to achieve the accurate and efficient reconstruction of 3D environments. By integrating vision, [...] Read more.
This work presents the development and evaluation of a real-time 3D reconstruction system using drones. The system leverages innovative artificial intelligence techniques in photogrammetry and computer vision (CDS-MVSNet and DROID-SLAM) to achieve the accurate and efficient reconstruction of 3D environments. By integrating vision, navigation, and 3D reconstruction subsystems, the proposed system addresses the limitations of existing applications and software in terms of speed and accuracy. The project encountered challenges related to scheduling, resource availability, and algorithmic complexity. The obtained results validate the applicability of the system in real-world scenarios and open avenues for further research in diverse areas. One of the tests consisted of a one-minute-and-three-second flight around a small figure, while the reconstruction was performed in real time. The reference Meshroom software completed the 3D reconstruction in 136 min and 12 s, while the proposed system finished the process in just 1 min and 13 s. This work contributes to the advancement in the field of 3D reconstruction using drones, benefiting from advancements in technology and machine learning algorithms. Full article
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24 pages, 23578 KiB  
Article
Digital Recording of Historical Defensive Structures in Mountainous Areas Using Drones: Considerations and Comparisons
by Luigi Barazzetti, Mattia Previtali, Lorenzo Cantini and Annunziata Maria Oteri
Drones 2023, 7(8), 512; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7080512 - 03 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1207
Abstract
Digital recording of historic buildings and sites in mountainous areas could be challenging. The paper considers and discusses the case of historical defensive structures in the Italian Alps, designed and built to be not accessible. Drone images and photogrammetric techniques for 3D modeling [...] Read more.
Digital recording of historic buildings and sites in mountainous areas could be challenging. The paper considers and discusses the case of historical defensive structures in the Italian Alps, designed and built to be not accessible. Drone images and photogrammetric techniques for 3D modeling play a fundamental role in the digital documentation of fortified constructions with non-contact techniques. This manuscript describes the use of drones for reconstructing the external surfaces of some fortified structures using traditional photogrammetric/SfM solutions and novel methods based on NeRFs. The case of direct orientation based on PPK and traditional GCPs placed on the ground is also discussed, considering the difficulties in placing and measuring control points in such environments. Full article
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21 pages, 6631 KiB  
Review
An Overview of Drone Applications in the Construction Industry
by Hee-Wook Choi, Hyung-Jin Kim, Sung-Keun Kim and Wongi S. Na
Drones 2023, 7(8), 515; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7080515 - 03 Aug 2023
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 15030
Abstract
The integration of drones in the construction industry has ushered in a new era of efficiency, accuracy, and safety throughout the various phases of construction projects. This paper presents a comprehensive overview of the applications of drones in the construction industry, focusing on [...] Read more.
The integration of drones in the construction industry has ushered in a new era of efficiency, accuracy, and safety throughout the various phases of construction projects. This paper presents a comprehensive overview of the applications of drones in the construction industry, focusing on their utilization in the design, construction, and maintenance phases. The differences between the three different types of drones are discussed at the beginning of the paper where the overview of the drone applications in construction industry is then described. Overall, the integration of drones in the construction industry has yielded transformative advancements across all phases of construction projects. As technology continues to advance, drones are expected to play an increasingly critical role in shaping the future of the construction industry. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Intelligent Image Processing and Sensing for Drones)
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16 pages, 1362 KiB  
Article
DECCo-A Dynamic Task Scheduling Framework for Heterogeneous Drone Edge Cluster
by Zhiyang Zhang, Die Wu, Fengli Zhang and Ruijin Wang
Drones 2023, 7(8), 513; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7080513 - 03 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1337
Abstract
The heterogeneity of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) nodes and the dynamic service demands make task scheduling particularly complex in the drone edge cluster (DEC) scenario. In this paper, we provide a universal intelligent collaborative task scheduling framework, named DECCo, which schedules dynamically changing [...] Read more.
The heterogeneity of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) nodes and the dynamic service demands make task scheduling particularly complex in the drone edge cluster (DEC) scenario. In this paper, we provide a universal intelligent collaborative task scheduling framework, named DECCo, which schedules dynamically changing task requests for the heterogeneous DEC. Benefiting from the latest advances in deep reinforcement learning (DRL), DECCo autonomously learns task scheduling strategies with high response rates and low communication latency through a collaborative Advantage Actor–Critic algorithm, which avoids the interference of resource overload and local downtime while ensuring load balancing. To better adapt to the real drone collaborative scheduling scenario, DECCo switches between heuristic and DRL-based scheduling solutions based on real-time scheduling performance, thus avoiding suboptimal decisions that severely affect Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE). With flexible parameter control, DECCo can adapt to various task requests on drone edge clusters. Google Cluster Usage Traces are used to verify the effectiveness of DECCo. Therefore, our work represents a state-of-the-art method for task scheduling in the heterogeneous DEC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue UAV-Assisted Internet of Things)
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23 pages, 11472 KiB  
Review
Decomposition and Modeling of the Situational Awareness of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Advanced Air Mobility
by Sorelle Audrey Kamkuimo, Felipe Magalhaes, Rim Zrelli, Henrique Amaral Misson, Maroua Ben Attia and Gabriela Nicolescu
Drones 2023, 7(8), 501; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7080501 - 01 Aug 2023
Viewed by 1372
Abstract
The use of unmanned aerial aircrafts (UAVs) is governed by strict regulatory frameworks that prioritize safety. To guarantee safety, it is necessary to acquire and maintain situational awareness (SA) throughout the operation. Existing Canadian regulations require pilots to operate their aircrafts in the [...] Read more.
The use of unmanned aerial aircrafts (UAVs) is governed by strict regulatory frameworks that prioritize safety. To guarantee safety, it is necessary to acquire and maintain situational awareness (SA) throughout the operation. Existing Canadian regulations require pilots to operate their aircrafts in the visual line-of-sight. Therefore, the task of acquiring and maintaining SA primary falls to the pilots. However, the development of aerial transport is entering a new era with the adoption of a highly dynamic and complex system known as advanced air mobility (AAM), which involves UAVs operating autonomously beyond the visual line-of-sight. SA must therefore be acquired and maintained primarily by each UAV through specific technologies and procedures. In this paper, we review these technologies and procedures in order to decompose the SA of the UAV in the AAM. We then use the system modeling language to provide a high-level structural and behavioral representation of the AAM as a system having UAV as its main entity. In a case study, we analyze one of the flagship UAVs of our industrial partner. Results show that this UAV does not have all of the technologies and methodologies necessary to achieve all of the identified SA goals for the safety of the AAM. This work is a theoretical framework intended to contribute to the realization of the AAM, and we also expect to impact the future design and utilization of UAVs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conceptual Design, Modeling, and Control Strategies of Drones-II)
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27 pages, 683 KiB  
Article
Comparative Analysis of Nonlinear Programming Solvers: Performance Evaluation, Benchmarking, and Multi-UAV Optimal Path Planning
by Giovanni Lavezzi, Kidus Guye, Venanzio Cichella and Marco Ciarcià
Drones 2023, 7(8), 487; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7080487 - 25 Jul 2023
Viewed by 1184
Abstract
In this paper, we propose a set of guidelines to select a solver for the solution of nonlinear programming problems. We conduct a comparative analysis of the convergence performances of commonly used solvers for both unconstrained and constrained nonlinear programming problems. The comparison [...] Read more.
In this paper, we propose a set of guidelines to select a solver for the solution of nonlinear programming problems. We conduct a comparative analysis of the convergence performances of commonly used solvers for both unconstrained and constrained nonlinear programming problems. The comparison metrics involve accuracy, convergence rate, and computational time. MATLAB is chosen as the implementation platform due to its widespread adoption in academia and industry. Our study includes solvers which are either freely available or require a license, or are extensively documented in the literature. Moreover, we differentiate solvers if they allow the selection of different optimal search methods. We assess the performance of 24 algorithms on a set of 60 benchmark problems. We also evaluate the capability of each solver to tackle two large-scale UAV optimal path planning scenarios, specifically the 3D minimum time problem for UAV landing and the 3D minimum time problem for UAV formation flying. To enrich our analysis, we discuss the effects of each solver’s inner settings on accuracy, convergence rate, and computational time. Full article
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32 pages, 20812 KiB  
Article
Digital Twin Development for the Airspace of the Future
by Toufik Souanef, Saba Al-Rubaye, Antonios Tsourdos, Samuel Ayo and Dimitrios Panagiotakopoulos
Drones 2023, 7(7), 484; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7070484 - 23 Jul 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2393
Abstract
The UK aviation industry is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 through sustainable measures and one of the key aspects of this effort is the implementation of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems. These UTM systems play a crucial role in enabling [...] Read more.
The UK aviation industry is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 through sustainable measures and one of the key aspects of this effort is the implementation of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems. These UTM systems play a crucial role in enabling the safe and efficient integration of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the airspace. As part of the Airspace of the Future (AoF) project, the development and implementation of UTM services have been prioritised. This paper aims to create an environment where routine drone services can operate safely and effectively. To facilitate this, a digital twin of the National Beyond Visual Line of Sight Experimentation Corridor has been created. This digital twin serves as a virtual replica of the corridor and allows for the synthetic testing of unmanned traffic management concepts. The implementation of the digital twin involves both simulated and hybrid flights with real drones. Simulated flights allow for the testing and refinement of UTM services in a controlled environment. Hybrid flights, on the other hand, involve the integration of real drones into the airspace to assess their performance and compatibility with the UTM systems. By leveraging the capabilities of UTM systems and utilising the digital twin for testing, the AoF project aims to advance the development of safer and more efficient drone operations. The Experimentation Corridor has been developed to simulate and test concepts related to managing unmanned traffic. The paper provides a detailed account of the implementation of the digital twin for the AoF project, including simulated and hybrid flights involving real drones. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Drone Communications)
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31 pages, 5399 KiB  
Review
Towards Safe and Efficient Unmanned Aircraft System Operations: Literature Review of Digital Twins’ Applications and European Union Regulatory Compliance
by Elham Fakhraian, Ivana Semanjski, Silvio Semanjski and El-Houssaine Aghezzaf
Drones 2023, 7(7), 478; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7070478 - 20 Jul 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2995
Abstract
Unmanned aerial system/unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations have increased exponentially in recent years. With the creation of new air mobility concepts, industries use cutting-edge technology to create unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for various applications. Due to the popularity and use of advanced technology [...] Read more.
Unmanned aerial system/unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations have increased exponentially in recent years. With the creation of new air mobility concepts, industries use cutting-edge technology to create unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for various applications. Due to the popularity and use of advanced technology in this relatively new and rapidly evolving context, a regulatory framework to ensure safe operations is essential. To reflect the several ongoing initiatives and new developments in the domain of European Union (EU) regulatory frameworks at various levels, the increasing needs, developments in, and potential uses of UAVs, particularly in the context of research and innovation, a systematic overview is carried out in this paper. We review the development of UAV regulation in the European Union. The issue of how to implement this new and evolving regulation in UAS operations is also tackled. The digital twin (DT)’s ability to design, build, and analyze procedures makes it one potential way to assist the certification process. DTs are time- and cost-efficient tools to assist the certification process, since they enable engineers to inspect, analyze, and integrate designs as well as express concerns immediately; however, it is fair to state that DT implementation in UASs for certification and regulation is not discussed in-depth in the literature. This paper underlines the significance of UAS DTs in the certification process to provide a solid foundation for future studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Air Mobility (UAM))
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22 pages, 19025 KiB  
Article
Flow Structure around a Multicopter Drone: A Computational Fluid Dynamics Analysis for Sensor Placement Considerations
by Mauro Ghirardelli, Stephan T. Kral, Nicolas Carlo Müller, Richard Hann, Etienne Cheynet and Joachim Reuder
Drones 2023, 7(7), 467; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7070467 - 13 Jul 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2285
Abstract
This study presents a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) based approach to determine the optimal positioning for an atmospheric turbulence sensor on a rotary-wing uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) with X8 configuration. The vertical (zBF) and horizontal (xBF [...] Read more.
This study presents a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) based approach to determine the optimal positioning for an atmospheric turbulence sensor on a rotary-wing uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) with X8 configuration. The vertical (zBF) and horizontal (xBF) distances of the sensor to the UAV center to reduce the effect of the propeller-induced flow are investigated by CFD simulations based on the kϵ turbulence model and the actuator disc theory. To ensure a realistic geometric design of the simulations, the tilt angles of a test UAV in flight were measured by flying the drone along a fixed pattern at different constant ground speeds. Based on those measurement results, a corresponding geometry domain was generated for the CFD simulations. Specific emphasis was given to the mesh construction followed by a sensitivity study on the mesh resolution to find a compromise between acceptable simulation accuracy and available computational resources. The final CFD simulations (twelve in total) were performed for four inflow conditions (2.5 m s−1, 5 m s−1, 7.5 m s−1 and 10 m s−1) and three payload configurations (15 kg, 20 kg and 25 kg) of the UAV. The results depend on the inflows and show that the most efficient way to reduce the influence of the propeller-induced flow is mounting the sensor upwind, pointing along the incoming flow direction at xBF varying between 0.46 and 1.66 D, and under the mean plane of the rotors at zBF between 0.01 and 0.7 D. Finally, results are then applied to the possible real-case scenario of a Foxtech D130 carrying a CSAT3B ultrasonic anemometer, that aims to sample wind with mean flows higher than 5 m s−1. The authors propose xBF=1.7 m and zBF=20 cm below the mean rotor plane as a feasible compromise between propeller-induced flow reduction and safety. These results will be used to improve the design of a novel drone-based atmospheric turbulence measurement system, which aims to combine accurate wind and turbulence measurements by a research-grade ultrasonic anemometer with the high mobility and flexibility of UAVs as sensor carriers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Weather Impacts on Uncrewed Aircraft)
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29 pages, 2585 KiB  
Article
Impact of Wind on eVTOL Operations and Implications for Vertiport Airside Traffic Flows: A Case Study of Hamburg and Munich
by Karolin Schweiger, Reinhard Schmitz and Franz Knabe
Drones 2023, 7(7), 464; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7070464 - 11 Jul 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2441
Abstract
This study examines the impact of wind/gust speed conditions on airside traffic flows at vertiports in the context of on-demand urban air mobility based on the Vertidrome Airside Level of Service Framework. A wind-dependent operational concept introducing four wind speed categories with corresponding [...] Read more.
This study examines the impact of wind/gust speed conditions on airside traffic flows at vertiports in the context of on-demand urban air mobility based on the Vertidrome Airside Level of Service Framework. A wind-dependent operational concept introducing four wind speed categories with corresponding wind-dependent separation values is developed and applied in simulation. A decade (2011–2020) of historical METAR wind/gust speed reports are analyzed for a potential vertiport location at Hamburg and Munich airport, and a representative year of wind speed data is selected for each location as simulation input. Both locations experience performance degradation during the first quarter of the simulated year, which contains over 50% of the annual flight cancellations, and exceed wind-operating conditions, especially during midday and early afternoon hours. This study discusses the importance of wind-dependent coordination of flight schedules and analyzes the challenge of determining appropriate wind speed category thresholds. Lower thresholds result in an increased frequency of operationally unfavorable wind/gust conditions. Additional sensitivity analyses are performed to study the effects of wind-dependent separation deltas and wind-(in)dependent scheduling approaches. In conclusion, the presented approach enables planners and operators to make informed decisions about vertiport traffic flow characteristics and performance, vertiport location, and business cases. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Weather Impacts on Uncrewed Aircraft)
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18 pages, 674 KiB  
Article
Deep Reinforcement Learning for Truck-Drone Delivery Problem
by Zhiliang Bi, Xiwang Guo, Jiacun Wang, Shujin Qin and Guanjun Liu
Drones 2023, 7(7), 445; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7070445 - 06 Jul 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2273
Abstract
Utilizing drones for delivery is an effective approach to enhancing delivery efficiency and lowering expenses. However, to overcome the delivery range and payload capacity limitations of drones, the combination of trucks and drones is gaining more attention. By using trucks as a flight [...] Read more.
Utilizing drones for delivery is an effective approach to enhancing delivery efficiency and lowering expenses. However, to overcome the delivery range and payload capacity limitations of drones, the combination of trucks and drones is gaining more attention. By using trucks as a flight platform for drones and supporting their take-off and landing, the delivery range and capacity can be greatly extended. This research focused on mixed truck-drone delivery and utilized reinforcement learning and real road networks to address its optimal scheduling issue. Furthermore, the state and behavior of the vehicle were optimized to reduce meaningless behavior, especially the optimization of truck travel trajectory and customer service time. Finally, a comparison with other reinforcement learning algorithms with behavioral constraints demonstrated the reasonableness of the problem and the advantages of the algorithm. Full article
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29 pages, 645 KiB  
Review
Cyber4Drone: A Systematic Review of Cyber Security and Forensics in Next-Generation Drones
by Vikas Sihag, Gaurav Choudhary, Pankaj Choudhary and Nicola Dragoni
Drones 2023, 7(7), 430; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7070430 - 28 Jun 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 8445
Abstract
Cyber Security and forensics for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) pose unique requirements, solutions, and challenges. As UAVs become increasingly prevalent for legitimate and illegal use, ensuring their security and data integrity is important. Solutions have been developed to tackle these security requirements. Drone [...] Read more.
Cyber Security and forensics for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) pose unique requirements, solutions, and challenges. As UAVs become increasingly prevalent for legitimate and illegal use, ensuring their security and data integrity is important. Solutions have been developed to tackle these security requirements. Drone forensics enables the investigation of security incidents involving UAVs, aiding in identifying attackers or determining the cause of accidents. However, challenges persist in the domain of UAV security and forensics. This paper surveys drone threat models, security, and privacy aspects. In particular, we present the taxonomy of drone forensics for investigating drone systems and talk about relevant artifacts, tools, and benchmark datasets. While solutions exist, challenges such as evolving technology and complex operational environments must be addressed through collaboration, updated protocols, and regulatory frameworks to ensure drones’ secure and reliable operation. Furthermore, we also point out the field’s difficulties and potential future directions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Communication)
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16 pages, 11307 KiB  
Article
Hyper-Local Weather Predictions with the Enhanced General Urban Area Microclimate Predictions Tool
by Kevin A. Adkins, William Becker, Sricharan Ayyalasomayajula, Steven Lavenstein, Kleoniki Vlachou, David Miller, Marc Compere, Avinash Muthu Krishnan and Nickolas Macchiarella
Drones 2023, 7(7), 428; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7070428 - 28 Jun 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1523
Abstract
This paper presents enhancements to, and the demonstration of, the General Urban area Microclimate Predictions tool (GUMP), which is designed to provide hyper-local weather predictions by combining machine-learning (ML) models and computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations. For the further development and demonstration of [...] Read more.
This paper presents enhancements to, and the demonstration of, the General Urban area Microclimate Predictions tool (GUMP), which is designed to provide hyper-local weather predictions by combining machine-learning (ML) models and computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations. For the further development and demonstration of GUMP, the Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) campus was used as a test environment. Local weather sensors provided data to train ML models, and CFD models of urban- and suburban-like areas of ERAU’s campus were created and iterated through with a wide assortment of inlet wind speed and direction combinations. ML weather sensor predictions were combined with best-fit CFD models from a database of CFD flow fields, providing flight operational areas with a fully expressed wind flow field. This field defined a risk map for uncrewed aircraft operators based on flight plans and individual flight performance metrics. The potential applications of GUMP are significant due to the immediate availability of weather predictions and its ability to easily extend to arbitrary urban and suburban locations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Weather Impacts on Uncrewed Aircraft)
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18 pages, 9208 KiB  
Article
Chattering Reduction of Sliding Mode Control for Quadrotor UAVs Based on Reinforcement Learning
by Qi Wang, Akio Namiki, Abner Asignacion, Jr., Ziran Li and Satoshi Suzuki
Drones 2023, 7(7), 420; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7070420 - 25 Jun 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1784
Abstract
Sliding mode control, an algorithm known for its stability and robustness, has been widely used in designing robot controllers. Such controllers inevitably exhibit chattering; numerous methods have been proposed to deal with this problem in the past decade. However, in most scenarios, ensuring [...] Read more.
Sliding mode control, an algorithm known for its stability and robustness, has been widely used in designing robot controllers. Such controllers inevitably exhibit chattering; numerous methods have been proposed to deal with this problem in the past decade. However, in most scenarios, ensuring that the specified form and the parameters selected are optimal for the system is challenging. In this work, the reinforcement-learning method is adopted to explore the optimal nonlinear function to reduce chattering. Based on a conventional reference model for sliding mode control, the network output directly participates in the controller calculation without any restrictions. Additionally, a two-step verification method is proposed, including simulation under input delay and external disturbance and actual experiments using a quadrotor. Two types of classic chattering reduction methods are implemented on the same basic controller for comparison. The experiment results indicate that the proposed method could effectively reduce chattering and exhibit better tracking performance. Full article
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39 pages, 9548 KiB  
Article
Assuring Safe and Efficient Operation of UAV Using Explainable Machine Learning
by Abdulrahman Alharbi, Ivan Petrunin and Dimitrios Panagiotakopoulos
Drones 2023, 7(5), 327; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7050327 - 19 May 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1821
Abstract
The accurate estimation of airspace capacity in unmanned traffic management (UTM) operations is critical for a safe, efficient, and equitable allocation of airspace system resources. While conventional approaches for assessing airspace complexity certainly exist, these methods fail to capture true airspace capacity, since [...] Read more.
The accurate estimation of airspace capacity in unmanned traffic management (UTM) operations is critical for a safe, efficient, and equitable allocation of airspace system resources. While conventional approaches for assessing airspace complexity certainly exist, these methods fail to capture true airspace capacity, since they fail to address several important variables (such as weather). Meanwhile, existing AI-based decision-support systems evince opacity and inexplicability, and this restricts their practical application. With these challenges in mind, the authors propose a tailored solution to the needs of demand and capacity management (DCM) services. This solution, by deploying a synthesized fuzzy rule-based model and deep learning will address the trade-off between explicability and performance. In doing so, it will generate an intelligent system that will be explicable and reasonably comprehensible. The results show that this advisory system will be able to indicate the most appropriate regions for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) operation, and it will also increase UTM airspace availability by more than 23%. Moreover, the proposed system demonstrates a maximum capacity gain of 65% and a minimum safety gain of 35%, while possessing an explainability attribute of 70%. This will assist UTM authorities through more effective airspace capacity estimation and the formulation of new operational regulations and performance requirements. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue AAM Integration: Strategic Insights and Goals)
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24 pages, 2596 KiB  
Article
Advanced Air Mobility Operation and Infrastructure for Sustainable Connected eVTOL Vehicle
by Saba Al-Rubaye, Antonios Tsourdos and Kamesh Namuduri
Drones 2023, 7(5), 319; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7050319 - 16 May 2023
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 5610
Abstract
Advanced air mobility (AAM) is an emerging sector in aviation aiming to offer secure, efficient, and eco-friendly transportation utilizing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. These vehicles are designed for short-haul flights, transporting passengers and cargo between urban centers, suburbs, and remote [...] Read more.
Advanced air mobility (AAM) is an emerging sector in aviation aiming to offer secure, efficient, and eco-friendly transportation utilizing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. These vehicles are designed for short-haul flights, transporting passengers and cargo between urban centers, suburbs, and remote areas. As the number of flights is expected to rise significantly in congested metropolitan areas, there is a need for a digital ecosystem to support the AAM platform. This ecosystem requires seamless integration of air traffic management systems, ground control systems, and communication networks, enabling effective communication between AAM vehicles and ground systems to ensure safe and efficient operations. Consequently, the aviation industry is seeking to develop a new aerospace framework that promotes shared aerospace practices, ensuring the safety, sustainability, and efficiency of air traffic operations. However, the lack of adequate wireless coverage in congested cities and disconnected rural communities poses challenges for large-scale AAM deployments. In the immediate recovery phase, incorporating AAM with new air-to-ground connectivity presents difficulties such as overwhelming the terrestrial network with data requests, maintaining link reliability, and managing handover occurrences. Furthermore, managing eVTOL traffic in urban areas with congested airspace necessitates high levels of connectivity to support air routing information for eVTOL vehicles. This paper introduces a novel concept addressing future flight challenges and proposes a framework for integrating operations, infrastructure, connectivity, and ecosystems in future air mobility. Specifically, it includes a performance analysis to illustrate the impact of extensive AAM vehicle mobility on ground base station network infrastructure in urban environments. This work aims to pave the way for future air mobility by introducing a new vision for backbone infrastructure that supports safe and sustainable aviation through advanced communication technology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Next Generation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Services)
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15 pages, 3171 KiB  
Article
Improved Radar Detection of Small Drones Using Doppler Signal-to-Clutter Ratio (DSCR) Detector
by Jiangkun Gong, Jun Yan, Huiping Hu, Deyong Kong and Deren Li
Drones 2023, 7(5), 316; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7050316 - 10 May 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3018
Abstract
The detection of drones using radar presents challenges due to their small radar cross-section (RCS) values, slow velocities, and low altitudes. Traditional signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) detectors often fail to detect weak radar signals from small drones, resulting in high “Missed Target” rates due [...] Read more.
The detection of drones using radar presents challenges due to their small radar cross-section (RCS) values, slow velocities, and low altitudes. Traditional signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) detectors often fail to detect weak radar signals from small drones, resulting in high “Missed Target” rates due to the dependence of SNR values on RCS and detection range. To overcome this issue, we propose the use of a Doppler signal-to-clutter ratio (DSCR) detector that can extract both amplitude and Doppler information from drone signals. Theoretical calculations suggest that the DSCR of a target is less dependent on the detection range than the SNR. Experimental results using a Ku-band pulsed-Doppler surface surveillance radar and an X-band marine surveillance radar demonstrate that the DSCR detector can effectively extract radar signals from small drones, even when the signals are similar to clutter levels. Compared to the SNR detector, the DSCR detector reduces missed target rates by utilizing a lower detection threshold. Our tests include quad-rotor, fixed-wing, and hybrid vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drones, with mean SNR values comparable to the surrounding clutter but with DSCR values above 10 dB, significantly higher than the clutter. The simplicity and low radar requirements of the DSCR detector make it a promising solution for drone detection in radar engineering applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Intelligent Recognition and Detection for Unmanned Systems)
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16 pages, 4490 KiB  
Article
Noise Impact Assessment of UAS Operation in Urbanised Areas: Field Measurements and a Simulation
by Filip Škultéty, Erik Bujna, Michal Janovec and Branislav Kandera
Drones 2023, 7(5), 314; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7050314 - 09 May 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1919
Abstract
This article’s main topic is an assessment of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) noise pollution in several weight categories according to Regulation (EU) 2019/947 and its impact on the urban environment during regular operation. The necessity of solving the given problem is caused by [...] Read more.
This article’s main topic is an assessment of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) noise pollution in several weight categories according to Regulation (EU) 2019/947 and its impact on the urban environment during regular operation. The necessity of solving the given problem is caused by an increasing occurrence of UASs in airspace and the prospect of introducing unmanned aircraft into broader commercial operations. This work aims to provide an overview of noise measurements of two UAS weight categories under natural atmospheric conditions to assess their impact on the surrounding environment. On top of that, modelling and simulations were used to observe and assess the noise emission characteristics. The quantitative results contain an assessment of the given noise restrictions based on the psychoacoustic impact and actual measured values inserted into the urban simulation scenario of the Zilina case study located in northwest Slovakia. It was preceded by a study of noise levels in certain areas to evaluate the variation level after UAS integration into the corresponding airspace. Following a model simulation of the C2 category, it was concluded that there was a marginal rise in the level of noise exposure, which would not exceed the prescribed standards of the Environmental Noise Directive. Full article
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22 pages, 9923 KiB  
Article
Drone High-Rise Aerial Delivery with Vertical Grid Screening
by Avishkar Seth, Alice James, Endrowednes Kuantama, Subhas Mukhopadhyay and Richard Han
Drones 2023, 7(5), 300; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7050300 - 04 May 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3113
Abstract
Delivery drones typically perform delivery by suspending the parcel vertically or landing the drone to drop off the package. However, because of the constrained landing area and the requirement for precise navigation, delivering items to customers who reside in multi-story apartment complexes poses [...] Read more.
Delivery drones typically perform delivery by suspending the parcel vertically or landing the drone to drop off the package. However, because of the constrained landing area and the requirement for precise navigation, delivering items to customers who reside in multi-story apartment complexes poses a unique challenge. This research paper proposes a novel drone delivery system for multi-story apartment buildings with balconies that employ two methods for Vertical Grid Screening (VGS), i.e., Grid Screening (GS) and Square Screening (SS), to detect unique markers to identify the precise balcony that needs to receive the product. The developed drone has a frame size of 295 mm and is equipped with a stereo camera and a ranging sensor. The research paper also explores the scanning and trajectory methods required for autonomous flight to accurately approach the marker location. The proposed machine learning system is trained on a YOLOv5 model for image recognition of the marker, and four different models and batch sizes are compared. The 32-batch size with a 960 × 1280 resolution model provides an average of 0.97 confidence for an extended range. This system is tested outdoors and shows an accuracy of 95% for a planned trajectory with 398 ms detection time as a solution for last-mile delivery in urban areas. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Drones: Opportunities and Challenges)
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22 pages, 6557 KiB  
Article
Estimating Effective Leaf Area Index of Winter Wheat Based on UAV Point Cloud Data
by Jie Yang, Minfeng Xing, Qiyun Tan, Jiali Shang, Yang Song, Xiliang Ni, Jinfei Wang and Min Xu
Drones 2023, 7(5), 299; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7050299 - 03 May 2023
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 2631
Abstract
Leaf area index (LAI) is a widely used plant biophysical parameter required for modelling plant photosynthesis and crop yield estimation. UAV remote sensing plays an increasingly important role in providing the data source needed for LAI extraction. This study proposed a UAV-derived 3-D [...] Read more.
Leaf area index (LAI) is a widely used plant biophysical parameter required for modelling plant photosynthesis and crop yield estimation. UAV remote sensing plays an increasingly important role in providing the data source needed for LAI extraction. This study proposed a UAV-derived 3-D point cloud-based method to automatically calculate crop-effective LAI (LAIe). In this method, the 3-D winter wheat point cloud data filtered out of bare ground points was projected onto a hemisphere, and then the gap fraction was calculated through the hemispherical image obtained by projecting the sphere onto a plane. A single-angle inversion method and a multi-angle inversion method were used, respectively, to calculate the LAIe through the gap fraction. The results show a good linear correlation between the calculated LAIe and the field LAIe measured by the digital hemispherical photography method. In particular, the multi-angle inversion method of stereographic projection achieved the highest accuracy, with an R2 of 0.63. The method presented in this paper performs well in LAIe estimation of the main leaf development stages of the winter wheat growth cycle. It offers an effective means for mapping crop LAIe without the need for reference data, which saves time and cost. Full article
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23 pages, 191929 KiB  
Article
Transmission Line Segmentation Solutions for UAV Aerial Photography Based on Improved UNet
by Min He, Liang Qin, Xinlan Deng, Sihan Zhou, Haofeng Liu and Kaipei Liu
Drones 2023, 7(4), 274; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7040274 - 17 Apr 2023
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1600
Abstract
The accurate and efficient detection of power lines and towers in aerial drone images with complex backgrounds is crucial for the safety of power grid operations and low-altitude drone flights. In this paper, we propose a new method that enhances the deep learning [...] Read more.
The accurate and efficient detection of power lines and towers in aerial drone images with complex backgrounds is crucial for the safety of power grid operations and low-altitude drone flights. In this paper, we propose a new method that enhances the deep learning segmentation model UNet algorithm called TLSUNet. We enhance the UNet algorithm by using a lightweight backbone structure to extract the features and then reconstructing them with contextual information features. In this network model, to reduce its parameters and computational complexity, we adopt DFC-GhostNet (Dubbed Full Connected) as the backbone feature extraction network, which is composed of the DFC-GhostBottleneck structure and uses asymmetric convolution to capture long-distance targets in transmission lines, thus enhancing the model’s extraction capability. Additionally, we design a hybrid feature extraction module based on convolution and a transformer to refine deep semantic features and improve the model’s ability to locate towers and transmission lines in complex environments. Finally, we adopt the up-sampling operator CARAFE (Content-Aware Re-Assembly of FEature) to improve segmentation accuracy by enhancing target restoration using contextual neighborhood pixel information correlation under feature decoding. Our experiments on public aerial photography datasets demonstrate that the improved model requires only 8.3% of the original model’s computational effort and has only 21.4% of the original model’s parameters, while achieving a reduction in inference speed delay by 0.012 s. The segmentation metrics also showed significant improvements, with the mIOU improving from 79.75% to 86.46% and the mDice improving from 87.83% to 92.40%. These results confirm the effectiveness of our proposed method. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Intelligent Image Processing and Sensing for Drones)
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22 pages, 1478 KiB  
Article
UAV Trajectory and Energy Efficiency Optimization in RIS-Assisted Multi-User Air-to-Ground Communications Networks
by Yuanyuan Yao, Ke Lv, Sai Huang, Xuehua Li and Wei Xiang
Drones 2023, 7(4), 272; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7040272 - 15 Apr 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2348
Abstract
An air-to-ground downlink communication network consisting of a reconfigurable intelligent surface (RIS) and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is proposed. In conjunction with a resource allocation strategy, the system’s energy efficiency is improved. Specifically, the UAV equipped with a RIS starts from an initial [...] Read more.
An air-to-ground downlink communication network consisting of a reconfigurable intelligent surface (RIS) and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is proposed. In conjunction with a resource allocation strategy, the system’s energy efficiency is improved. Specifically, the UAV equipped with a RIS starts from an initial location, and an energy-efficient unmanned aerial vehicle deployment (EEUD) algorithm is deployed to jointly optimize the UAV trajectory, RIS phase shifts, and BS transmit power, so as to obtain a quasi-optimal deployment location and hence improve the energy efficiency. First, the RIS phase shifts are optimized by using the block coordinate descent (BCD) algorithm to deal with the nonconvex inequality constraint, and then integrated with the Dinkelbach algorithm to address the resource allocation problem of the BS transmit power. Finally, for solving the UAV trajectory optimization problem, the complex objective function is transformed into a convex function, and the optimal UAV flight trajectory is obtained. Our simulation results show that the quasi-optimal deployment location obtained by the EEUD algorithm is superior to other deployment strategies in energy efficiency. Moreover, the instantaneous energy efficiency of the UAVs along the trajectory of searching the deployment location is better than other comparison trajectories. Furthermore, the RIS-assisted multi-user air-to-ground communication network can offer up to 145% improvement in energy efficiency over the traditional amplify-and-forward (AF) relay. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Drone Communications)
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37 pages, 4778 KiB  
Review
Investigation of Autonomous Multi-UAV Systems for Target Detection in Distributed Environment: Current Developments and Open Challenges
by Wilfried Yves Hamilton Adoni, Sandra Lorenz, Junaidh Shaik Fareedh, Richard Gloaguen and Michael Bussmann
Drones 2023, 7(4), 263; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7040263 - 12 Apr 2023
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 4486
Abstract
Uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are ubiquitous and their use cases extend today from governmental applications to civil applications such as the agricultural, medical, and transport sectors, etc. In accordance with the requirements in terms of demand, it is possible [...] Read more.
Uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, are ubiquitous and their use cases extend today from governmental applications to civil applications such as the agricultural, medical, and transport sectors, etc. In accordance with the requirements in terms of demand, it is possible to carry out various missions involving several types of UAVs as well as various onboard sensors. According to the complexity of the mission, some configurations are required both in terms of hardware and software. This task becomes even more complex when the system is composed of autonomous UAVs that collaborate with each other without the assistance of an operator. Several factors must be considered, such as the complexity of the mission, the types of UAVs, the communication architecture, the routing protocol, the coordination of tasks, and many other factors related to the environment. Unfortunately, although there are many research works that address the use cases of multi-UAV systems, there is a gap in the literature regarding the difficulties involved with the implementation of these systems from scratch. This review article seeks to examine and understand the communication issues related to the implementation from scratch of autonomous multi-UAV systems for collaborative decisions. The manuscript will also provide a formal definition of the ecosystem of a multi-UAV system, as well as a comparative study of UAV types and related works that highlight the use cases of multi-UAV systems. In addition to the mathematical modeling of the collaborative target detection problem in distributed environments, this article establishes a comparative study of communication architectures and routing protocols in a UAV network. After reading this review paper, readers will benefit from the multicriteria decision-making roadmaps to choose the right architectures and routing protocols adapted for specific missions. The open challenges and future directions described in this manuscript can be used to understand the current limitations and how to overcome them to effectively exploit autonomous swarms in future trends. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Drone Communications)
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35 pages, 6092 KiB  
Review
Multi-UAV Collaborative Absolute Vision Positioning and Navigation: A Survey and Discussion
by Pengfei Tong, Xuerong Yang, Yajun Yang, Wei Liu and Peiyi Wu
Drones 2023, 7(4), 261; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7040261 - 11 Apr 2023
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 5798
Abstract
The employment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has greatly facilitated the lives of humans. Due to the mass manufacturing of consumer unmanned aerial vehicles and the support of related scientific research, it can now be used in lighting shows, jungle search-and-rescues, topographical mapping, [...] Read more.
The employment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has greatly facilitated the lives of humans. Due to the mass manufacturing of consumer unmanned aerial vehicles and the support of related scientific research, it can now be used in lighting shows, jungle search-and-rescues, topographical mapping, disaster monitoring, and sports event broadcasting, among many other disciplines. Some applications have stricter requirements for the autonomous positioning capability of UAV clusters, requiring its positioning precision to be within the cognitive range of a human or machine. Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) is currently the only method that can be applied directly and consistently to UAV positioning. Even with dependable GNSS, large-scale clustering of drones might fail, resulting in drone cluster bombardment. As a type of passive sensor, the visual sensor has a compact size, a low cost, a wealth of information, strong positional autonomy and reliability, and high positioning accuracy. This automated navigation technology is ideal for drone swarms. The application of vision sensors in the collaborative task of multiple UAVs can effectively avoid navigation interruption or precision deficiency caused by factors such as field-of-view obstruction or flight height limitation of a single UAV sensor and achieve large-area group positioning and navigation in complex environments. This paper examines collaborative visual positioning among multiple UAVs (UAV autonomous positioning and navigation, distributed collaborative measurement fusion under cluster dynamic topology, and group navigation based on active behavior control and distributed fusion of multi-source dynamic sensing information). Current research constraints are compared and appraised, and the most pressing issues to be addressed in the future are anticipated and researched. Through analysis and discussion, it has been concluded that the integrated employment of the aforementioned methodologies aids in enhancing the cooperative positioning and navigation capabilities of multiple UAVs during GNSS denial. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A UAV Platform for Flight Dynamics and Control System)
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28 pages, 3268 KiB  
Article
Transition Nonlinear Blended Aerodynamic Modeling and Anti-Harmonic Disturbance Robust Control of Fixed-Wing Tiltrotor UAV
by Jingxian Liao and Hyochoong Bang
Drones 2023, 7(4), 255; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7040255 - 10 Apr 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3015
Abstract
This study proposed a novel nonlinear blended aerodynamic model for the tiltrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during the transition phase to handle the high angle-of-attack (AoA) flight, which aggregated the flat-plate mode and the linear mode of the aerodynamic coefficients. Additionally, a harmonic [...] Read more.
This study proposed a novel nonlinear blended aerodynamic model for the tiltrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during the transition phase to handle the high angle-of-attack (AoA) flight, which aggregated the flat-plate mode and the linear mode of the aerodynamic coefficients. Additionally, a harmonic disturbance observer (HDO) and super-twisting sliding mode controller (STSMC) addressed the fast-changing external disturbances and attenuated the chattering problem in the original SMC. The comparative trajectory tracking results indicated that the blended aerodynamic model accurately tracks the reference signals with no tracking errors, which demonstrated a superior performance as compared to the traditional aerodynamic model, with a reduction of 2.2%, 50%, 73.6%, and 11.2% in the time required for tracking the pitch angle, pitch rate, and velocities u and w, respectively. Conversely, the traditional one exhibited significant tracking errors, ranging from 0.016° in the pitch angle channel to 1.25°/s in the pitch rate channel, and 0.6 m/s for velocity u and 0.01 m/s for velocity w. Moreover, the comparative control input results illustrated that the least control effort was required for the proposed HDO-STSMC control scheme with a blending function, while the original ESO-SMC experienced more oscillations and sharp amplitude changes, taking twice the time to converge, with considerable tracking errors such as 1.067° in the pitch angle channel, 0.788°/s in the pitch rate channel, 1.554 m/s for velocity u, and 0.746 m/s for velocity w, which verified the feasibility and superiority of the proposed HDO-STSMC with the blending function. Two performance indices revealed the robust stability and rapid convergence of the proposed transition blended aerodynamic model with the HDO-STSMC control scheme. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Flight Control System Simulation)
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18 pages, 9726 KiB  
Article
Blade Twist Effects on Aerodynamic Performance and Noise Reduction in a Multirotor Propeller
by Jianwei Sun, Koichi Yonezawa, Yasutada Tanabe, Hideaki Sugawara and Hao Liu
Drones 2023, 7(4), 252; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7040252 - 06 Apr 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3478
Abstract
This paper presents a novel integrated study of the aerodynamic performance and acoustic signature of multirotor propellers with a specific focus on the blade twist angle effect. Experimental measurements and computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations were utilized to examine and compare the aerodynamic [...] Read more.
This paper presents a novel integrated study of the aerodynamic performance and acoustic signature of multirotor propellers with a specific focus on the blade twist angle effect. Experimental measurements and computational fluid dynamic (CFD) simulations were utilized to examine and compare the aerodynamic performance and noise reduction between twisted and untwisted blades. A 2D phase-locked particle image velocimetry (PIV) was employed to visualize flow structures at specific blade locations in terms of tip vortices and trailing edge vortices. Good consistency between the simulations and measurements was observed in aerodynamic and acoustic performance. It is verified that the propellers with twisted blades enable a maximum increase of 9.3% in the figure of merit compared to untwisted blades while achieving the same thrust production and are further capable to reduce overall sound pressure level by a maximum of 4.3 dB. CFD results reveal that the twisted propeller remarkedly reduces far-field loading noise by suppressing trailing-edge vortices, hence mitigating kinetic energy fluctuation at the blade tip, while having minimal impact on thickness noise. This study points to the crucial role of blade twists in altering the aeroacoustic characteristics, indicating that optimal designs could lead to significant improvements in both aerodynamic and acoustic performance. Full article
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26 pages, 8511 KiB  
Article
Robust Control for UAV Close Formation Using LADRC via Sine-Powered Pigeon-Inspired Optimization
by Guangsong Yuan and Haibin Duan
Drones 2023, 7(4), 238; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7040238 - 29 Mar 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1510
Abstract
This paper designs a robust close-formation control system with dynamic estimation and compensation to advance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) close-formation flights to an engineer-implementation level. To characterize the wake vortex effect and analyze the sweet spot, a continuous horseshoe vortex method with high [...] Read more.
This paper designs a robust close-formation control system with dynamic estimation and compensation to advance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) close-formation flights to an engineer-implementation level. To characterize the wake vortex effect and analyze the sweet spot, a continuous horseshoe vortex method with high estimation accuracy is employed to model the wake vortex. The close-formation control system will be implemented in the trailing UAV to steer it to the sweet spot and hold its position. Considering the dynamic characteristics of the trailing UAV, the designed control system is divided into three control subsystems for the longitudinal, altitude, and lateral channels. Using linear active-disturbance rejection control (LADRC), the control subsystem of each channel is composed of two cascaded first-order LADRC controllers. One is responsible for the outer-loop position control and the other is used to stabilize the inner-loop attitude. This control system scheme can significantly reduce the coupling effects between channels and effectively suppress the transmission of disturbances caused by the wake vortex effect. Due to the cascade structure of the control subsystem, the correlation among the control parameters is very high. Therefore, sine-powered pigeon-inspired optimization is proposed to optimize the control parameters for the control subsystem of each channel. The simulation results for two UAV close formations show that the designed control system can achieve stable and robust dynamic performance within the expected error range to maximize the aerodynamic benefits for a trailing UAV. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Swarm Intelligence in Multi-UAVs)
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20 pages, 7470 KiB  
Article
Automated Drone Battery Management System—Droneport: Technical Overview
by Lukáš Bláha, Ondřej Severa, Martin Goubej, Tomáš Myslivec and Jan Reitinger
Drones 2023, 7(4), 234; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7040234 - 28 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3487
Abstract
The popularity of using vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial systems continues to rise. Although the use of these devices seems to be almost limitless, the main drawback is still the battery capacity and the need to replace or recharge it several times [...] Read more.
The popularity of using vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial systems continues to rise. Although the use of these devices seems to be almost limitless, the main drawback is still the battery capacity and the need to replace or recharge it several times per hour. This article provides a technical overview of the development of an experimental mechatronic system for automatic drone battery management called Droneport. It was developed as a system with a landing platform, automatic battery exchange and recharging outside the drone, allowing a quick return to the mission. The first part presents its mechanical design, installed instrumentation and software environment. The next part is devoted to the description of the individual hardware components, highlighting the specific problems that had to be solved to optimize size, weight and robustness requirements. The final section summarizes our observations regarding the contribution of this tool to the autonomy of drones or UAVs in general. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conceptual Design, Modeling, and Control Strategies of Drones-II)
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13 pages, 4763 KiB  
Article
The Use of Unoccupied Aerial Systems (UASs) for Quantifying Shallow Coral Reef Restoration Success in Belize
by Emily Adria Peterson, Lisa Carne, Jamani Balderamos, Victor Faux, Arthur Gleason and Steven R. Schill
Drones 2023, 7(4), 221; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7040221 - 23 Mar 2023
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 7082
Abstract
There is a growing need for improved techniques to monitor coral reef restoration as these ecosystems and the goods and services they provide continue to decline under threats of anthropogenic activity and climate change. Given the difficulty of fine-scale requirements to monitor the [...] Read more.
There is a growing need for improved techniques to monitor coral reef restoration as these ecosystems and the goods and services they provide continue to decline under threats of anthropogenic activity and climate change. Given the difficulty of fine-scale requirements to monitor the survival and spread of outplanted branching coral fragments, Unoccupied Aerial Systems (UASs) provide an ideal platform to spatially document and quantitatively track growth patterns on shallow reef systems. We present findings from monitoring coral reef restoration combining UAS data with object-oriented segmentation techniques and open-source GIS analysis to quantify the areal extent of species-specific coverage across ~one hectare of shallow fringing reef over a one-year period (2019–2020) in Laughing Bird Caye National Park, southern Belize. The results demonstrate the detection of coral cover changes for three species (Acropora cervicornis, Acropora palmata, and Acropora prolifera) outplanted around the caye since 2006, with overall target coral species cover changing from 2142.58 to 2400.64 square meters from 2019 to 2020. Local ecological knowledge gathered from restoration practitioners was used to validate classified taxa of interest within the imagery collected. Our methods offer a monitoring approach that provides insight into coral growth patterns at a fine scale to better inform adaptive management practices for future restoration actions both within the park and at other reef replenishment target sites. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Drones in Ecology)
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69 pages, 11016 KiB  
Review
A Survey on Energy Optimization Techniques in UAV-Based Cellular Networks: From Conventional to Machine Learning Approaches
by Attai Ibrahim Abubakar, Iftikhar Ahmad, Kenechi G. Omeke, Metin Ozturk, Cihat Ozturk, Ali Makine Abdel-Salam, Michael S. Mollel, Qammer H. Abbasi, Sajjad Hussain and Muhammad Ali Imran
Drones 2023, 7(3), 214; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7030214 - 20 Mar 2023
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 4891
Abstract
Wireless communication networks have been witnessing unprecedented demand due to the increasing number of connected devices and emerging bandwidth-hungry applications. Although there are many competent technologies for capacity enhancement purposes, such as millimeter wave communications and network densification, there is still room and [...] Read more.
Wireless communication networks have been witnessing unprecedented demand due to the increasing number of connected devices and emerging bandwidth-hungry applications. Although there are many competent technologies for capacity enhancement purposes, such as millimeter wave communications and network densification, there is still room and need for further capacity enhancement in wireless communication networks, especially for the cases of unusual people gatherings, such as sport competitions, musical concerts, etc. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been identified as one of the promising options to enhance capacity due to their easy implementation, pop-up fashion operation, and cost-effective nature. The main idea is to deploy base stations on UAVs and operate them as flying base stations, thereby bringing additional capacity where it is needed. However, UAVs mostly have limited energy storage, hence, their energy consumption must be optimized to increase flight time. In this survey, we investigate different energy optimization techniques with a top-level classification in terms of the optimization algorithm employed—conventional and machine learning (ML). Such classification helps understand the state-of-the-art and the current trend in terms of methodology. In this regard, various optimization techniques are identified from the related literature, and they are presented under the above-mentioned classes of employed optimization methods. In addition, for the purpose of completeness, we include a brief tutorial on the optimization methods and power supply and charging mechanisms of UAVs. Moreover, novel concepts, such as reflective intelligent surfaces and landing spot optimization, are also covered to capture the latest trends in the literature. Full article
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37 pages, 1522 KiB  
Review
Review of Autonomous Path Planning Algorithms for Mobile Robots
by Hongwei Qin, Shiliang Shao, Ting Wang, Xiaotian Yu, Yi Jiang and Zonghan Cao
Drones 2023, 7(3), 211; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7030211 - 18 Mar 2023
Cited by 34 | Viewed by 8189
Abstract
Mobile robots, including ground robots, underwater robots, and unmanned aerial vehicles, play an increasingly important role in people’s work and lives. Path planning and obstacle avoidance are the core technologies for achieving autonomy in mobile robots, and they will determine the application prospects [...] Read more.
Mobile robots, including ground robots, underwater robots, and unmanned aerial vehicles, play an increasingly important role in people’s work and lives. Path planning and obstacle avoidance are the core technologies for achieving autonomy in mobile robots, and they will determine the application prospects of mobile robots. This paper introduces path planning and obstacle avoidance methods for mobile robots to provide a reference for researchers in this field. In addition, it comprehensively summarizes the recent progress and breakthroughs of mobile robots in the field of path planning and discusses future directions worthy of research in this field. We focus on the path planning algorithm of a mobile robot. We divide the path planning methods of mobile robots into the following categories: graph-based search, heuristic intelligence, local obstacle avoidance, artificial intelligence, sampling-based, planner-based, constraint problem satisfaction-based, and other algorithms. In addition, we review a path planning algorithm for multi-robot systems and different robots. We describe the basic principles of each method and highlight the most relevant studies. We also provide an in-depth discussion and comparison of path planning algorithms. Finally, we propose potential research directions in this field that are worth studying in the future. Full article
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19 pages, 751 KiB  
Review
A Systematic Review of UAVs for Island Coastal Environment and Risk Monitoring: Towards a Resilience Assessment
by Jérémy Jessin, Charlotte Heinzlef, Nathalie Long and Damien Serre
Drones 2023, 7(3), 206; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7030206 - 17 Mar 2023
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2098
Abstract
Island territories and their coastal regions are subject to a wide variety of stresses, both natural and anthropogenic. With increasing pressures on these vulnerable environments, the need to improve our knowledge of these ecosystems increases as well. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have recently [...] Read more.
Island territories and their coastal regions are subject to a wide variety of stresses, both natural and anthropogenic. With increasing pressures on these vulnerable environments, the need to improve our knowledge of these ecosystems increases as well. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have recently shown their worth as a tool for data acquisition in coastal zones. This literature review explores the field of UAVs in the context of coastal monitoring on island territories by highlighting the types of platforms, sensors, software, and validation methods available for this relatively new data acquisition method. Reviewing the existing literature will assist data collectors, researchers, and risk managers in more efficiently monitoring their coastal zones on vulnerable island territories. The scientific literature reviewed was strictly analyzed in peer-reviewed articles ranging from 2016 to 2022. This review then focuses on the operationalization of the concept of resilience as a risk management technique. The aim is to identify a procedure from raw data acquisition to quantifying indicators for the evaluation of the resilience of a territory and finally linking the analyzed data to a spatial decision support system. This system could aid the decision-making process and uses the islands of French Polynesia and its Resilience Observatory as a case study. Full article
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24 pages, 2408 KiB  
Review
Towards UAVs in Construction: Advancements, Challenges, and Future Directions for Monitoring and Inspection
by Han Liang, Seong-Cheol Lee, Woosung Bae, Jeongyun Kim and Suyoung Seo
Drones 2023, 7(3), 202; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7030202 - 15 Mar 2023
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 7709
Abstract
The use of UAVs for monitoring and inspection in the construction industry has garnered considerable attention in recent years due to their potential to enhance safety, efficiency, and accuracy. The development and application of various types of drones and sensors in the construction [...] Read more.
The use of UAVs for monitoring and inspection in the construction industry has garnered considerable attention in recent years due to their potential to enhance safety, efficiency, and accuracy. The development and application of various types of drones and sensors in the construction industry have opened up new data collection and analysis possibilities. This paper provides a thorough examination of the latest developments in the use of UAVs for monitoring and inspection in the construction industry, including a review of the current state of UAVs and an exploration of the types of drones and sensors applied and their applications. It also highlights the technological advancements in this field. However, as with any new technology, there are challenges and limitations that need to be addressed, such as regulatory and legal concerns, technical limitations, data processing challenges, training and expertise, and safety. Finally, we offer insights into potential solutions to these challenges, such as innovative sensors and imaging technologies, integration with other construction technologies, and the use of machine learning and AI for data analysis, which are some of the potential areas for future investigation, and highlight the prospects for drone-based construction inspection. Full article
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29 pages, 10248 KiB  
Review
YOLO-Based UAV Technology: A Review of the Research and Its Applications
by Chunling Chen, Ziyue Zheng, Tongyu Xu, Shuang Guo, Shuai Feng, Weixiang Yao and Yubin Lan
Drones 2023, 7(3), 190; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7030190 - 10 Mar 2023
Cited by 28 | Viewed by 8500
Abstract
In recent decades, scientific and technological developments have continued to increase in speed, with researchers focusing not only on the innovation of single technologies but also on the cross-fertilization of multidisciplinary technologies. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology has seen great progress in many [...] Read more.
In recent decades, scientific and technological developments have continued to increase in speed, with researchers focusing not only on the innovation of single technologies but also on the cross-fertilization of multidisciplinary technologies. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology has seen great progress in many aspects, such as geometric structure, flight characteristics, and navigation control. The You Only Look Once (YOLO) algorithm was developed and has been refined over the years to provide satisfactory performance for the real-time detection and classification of multiple targets. In the context of technology cross-fusion becoming a new focus, researchers have proposed YOLO-based UAV technology (YBUT) by integrating the above two technologies. This proposed integration succeeds in strengthening the application of emerging technologies and expanding the idea of the development of YOLO algorithms and drone technology. Therefore, this paper presents the development history of YBUT with reviews of the practical applications of YBUT in engineering, transportation, agriculture, automation, and other fields. The aim is to help new users to quickly understand YBUT and to help researchers, consumers, and stakeholders to quickly understand the research progress of the technology. The future of YBUT is also discussed to help explore the application of this technology in new areas. Full article
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21 pages, 6003 KiB  
Article
A Preliminary Study on the Development of a New UAV Concept and the Associated Flight Method
by Tiberius-Florian Frigioescu, Mihaela Raluca Condruz, Teodor Adrian Badea and Alexandru Paraschiv
Drones 2023, 7(3), 166; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7030166 - 27 Feb 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2310
Abstract
This article presents a preliminary study on the development of a new concept for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) design that incorporates the use of four wings and attached systems to improve overall performance, it being classified as a hybrid quadcopter (a quad [...] Read more.
This article presents a preliminary study on the development of a new concept for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) design that incorporates the use of four wings and attached systems to improve overall performance, it being classified as a hybrid quadcopter (a quad tilt wing, tiltrotor UAV). By simulation, it was determined that the developed concept has significant advantages compared with a conventional quadcopter. By implementing this concept, an increase in the maximum speed by 59.21% can be obtained; it reduces time to complete a 10 km route by 36.4%, decreases the energy consumption by 37%, and increases the maximum travel distance by 56.9% at 30% remaining battery capacity. Additionally, the concept improves maneuverability by allowing turning movements to be performed by changing the angle of incidence of the rear wings, resulting in less energy consumption compared to traditional turning methods applied in the case of a conventional quadcopter. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Drone Design and Development)
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25 pages, 7129 KiB  
Article
Motion Control System Design for a Novel Water-Powered Aerial System for Firefighting with Flow-Regulating Actuators
by Thinh Huynh and Young-Bok Kim
Drones 2023, 7(3), 162; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7030162 - 26 Feb 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1614
Abstract
Flying water-jet propulsion devices, such as jet boards, jet packs, and jet bikes, can execute complex flight maneuvers. However, they require the direct involvement of trained operators to control, and their applications are very limited. In this study, we design an effective controller [...] Read more.
Flying water-jet propulsion devices, such as jet boards, jet packs, and jet bikes, can execute complex flight maneuvers. However, they require the direct involvement of trained operators to control, and their applications are very limited. In this study, we design an effective controller for a novel water-powered aerial system that aims for autonomous firefighting missions, especially at or in bodies water. Unlike existing water-powered systems, an assembly of flow-regulating actuators is proposed to fully operate the system in three-dimensional space. The paper first formulates the system dynamics by coupled partial ordinary differential equations. Then, the nonlinear controller is designed to ensure the desired system motion and stability. The design takes distinct characteristics of the system, such as coupling, under actuation, and effects of the hose conveying the water, into consideration so that the system is stabilized and uniform ultimate boundedness is achieved. Computational studies in comparison with previous control methods validated the superiority and feasibility of the proposed control system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Section Drone Design and Development)
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16 pages, 6626 KiB  
Article
A Method for Forest Canopy Height Inversion Based on UAVSAR and Fourier–Legendre Polynomial—Performance in Different Forest Types
by Hongbin Luo, Cairong Yue, Hua Yuan, Ning Wang and Si Chen
Drones 2023, 7(3), 152; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7030152 - 22 Feb 2023
Viewed by 1831
Abstract
Mapping forest canopy height at large regional scales is of great importance for the global carbon cycle. Polarized interferometric synthetic aperture radar is an efficient and irreplaceable remote sensing tool. Developing an efficient and accurate method for forest canopy height estimation is an [...] Read more.
Mapping forest canopy height at large regional scales is of great importance for the global carbon cycle. Polarized interferometric synthetic aperture radar is an efficient and irreplaceable remote sensing tool. Developing an efficient and accurate method for forest canopy height estimation is an important issue that needs to be addressed urgently. In this paper, we propose a novel four-stage forest height inversion method based on a Fourier–Legendre polynomial (FLP) with reference to the RVoG three-stage method, using the multi-baseline UAVSAR data from the AfriSAR project as the data source. The third-order FLP is used as the vertical structure function, and a small amount of ground phase and LiDAR canopy height is used as the input to solve and fix the FLP coefficients to replace the exponential function in the RVoG three-stage method. The performance of this method was tested in different forest types (mangrove and inland tropical forests). The results show that: (1) in mangroves with homogeneous forest structure, the accuracy based on the four-stage FLP method is better than that of the RVoG three-stage method. For the four-stage FLP method, R2 is 0.82, RMSE is 6.42 m and BIAS is 0.92 m, while the R2 of the RVoG three-stage method is 0.77, RMSE is 7.33 m, and bias is −3.49 m. In inland tropical forests with complex forest structure, the inversion accuracy based on the four-stage FLP method is lower than that of the RVoG three-stage method. The R2 is 0.50, RMSE is 11.54 m, and BIAS is 6.53 m for the four-stage FLP method; the R2 of the RVoG three-stage method is 0.72, RMSE is 8.68 m, and BIAS is 1.67 m. (2) Compared to the RVoG three-stage method, the efficiency of the four-stage FLP method is improved by about tenfold, with the reduction of model parameters. The inversion time of the FLP method in a mangrove forest is 3 min, and that of the RVoG three-stage method is 33 min. In an inland tropical forest, the inversion time of the FLP method is 2.25 min, and that of the RVoG three-stage method is 21 min. With the application of large regional scale data in the future, the method proposed in this study is more efficient when conditions allow. Full article
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54 pages, 33702 KiB  
Review
Configurations and Applications of Multi-Agent Hybrid Drone/Unmanned Ground Vehicle for Underground Environments: A Review
by Chris Dinelli, John Racette, Mario Escarcega, Simon Lotero, Jeffrey Gordon, James Montoya, Chase Dunaway, Vasileios Androulakis, Hassan Khaniani, Sihua Shao, Pedram Roghanchi and Mostafa Hassanalian
Drones 2023, 7(2), 136; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7020136 - 14 Feb 2023
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 5485
Abstract
Subterranean openings, including mines, present a unique and challenging environment for robots and autonomous exploration systems. Autonomous robots that are created today will be deployed in harsh and unexplored landscapes that humanity is increasingly encountering in its scientific and technological endeavors. Terrestrial and [...] Read more.
Subterranean openings, including mines, present a unique and challenging environment for robots and autonomous exploration systems. Autonomous robots that are created today will be deployed in harsh and unexplored landscapes that humanity is increasingly encountering in its scientific and technological endeavors. Terrestrial and extraterrestrial environments pose significant challenges for both humans and robots: they are inhospitable and inaccessible to humans due to a lack of space or oxygen, poor or no illumination, unpredictable terrain, a GPS-denied environment, and a lack of satellite imagery or mapping information of any type. Underground mines provide a good physical simulation for these types of environments, and thus, can be useful for testing and developing highly sought-after autonomous navigation frameworks for autonomous agents. This review presents a collective study of robotic systems, both of individual and hybrid types, intended for deployment in such environments. The prevalent configurations, practices for their construction and the hardware equipment of existing multi-agent hybrid robotic systems will be discussed. It aims to provide a supplementary tool for defining the state of the art of coupled Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV)–Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) systems implemented for underground exploration and navigation purposes, as well as to provide some suggestions for multi-agent robotic system solutions, and ultimately, to support the development of a semi-autonomous hybrid UGV–UAV system to assist with mine emergency responses. Full article
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17 pages, 15087 KiB  
Article
Fast and High-Quality Monocular Depth Estimation with Optical Flow for Autonomous Drones
by Tomoyasu Shimada, Hiroki Nishikawa, Xiangbo Kong and Hiroyuki Tomiyama
Drones 2023, 7(2), 134; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7020134 - 14 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2840
Abstract
Recent years, autonomous drones have attracted attention in many fields due to their convenience. Autonomous drones require precise depth information so as to avoid collision to fly fast and both of RGB image and LiDAR point cloud are often employed in applications based [...] Read more.
Recent years, autonomous drones have attracted attention in many fields due to their convenience. Autonomous drones require precise depth information so as to avoid collision to fly fast and both of RGB image and LiDAR point cloud are often employed in applications based on Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) to estimate the distance to obstacles. Such applications are implemented onboard embedded systems. In order to precisely estimate the depth, such CNN models are in general so complex to extract many features that the computational complexity increases, requiring long inference time. In order to solve the issue, we employ optical flow to aid in-depth estimation. In addition, we propose a new attention structure that makes maximum use of optical flow without complicating the network. Furthermore, we achieve improved performance without modifying the depth estimator by adding a perceptual discriminator in training. The proposed model is evaluated through accuracy, error, and inference time on the KITTI dataset. In the experiments, we have demonstrated the proposed method achieves better performance by up to 34% accuracy, 55% error reduction and 66% faster inference time on Jetson nano compared to previous methods. The proposed method is also evaluated through a collision avoidance in simulated drone flight and achieves the lowest collision rate of all estimation methods. These experimental results show the potential of proposed method to be used in real-world autonomous drone flight applications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Edge Computing and IoT Technologies for Drones)
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15 pages, 8814 KiB  
Article
Semantic Scene Understanding with Large Language Models on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
by J. de Curtò, I. de Zarzà and Carlos T. Calafate
Drones 2023, 7(2), 114; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones7020114 - 08 Feb 2023
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 5373
Abstract
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are able to provide instantaneous visual cues and a high-level data throughput that could be further leveraged to address complex tasks, such as semantically rich scene understanding. In this work, we built on the use of Large Language Models [...] Read more.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are able to provide instantaneous visual cues and a high-level data throughput that could be further leveraged to address complex tasks, such as semantically rich scene understanding. In this work, we built on the use of Large Language Models (LLMs) and Visual Language Models (VLMs), together with a state-of-the-art detection pipeline, to provide thorough zero-shot UAV scene literary text descriptions. The generated texts achieve a GUNNING Fog median grade level in the range of 7–12. Applications of this framework could be found in the filming industry and could enhance user experience in theme parks or in the advertisement sector. We demonstrate a low-cost highly efficient state-of-the-art practical implementation of microdrones in a well-controlled and challenging setting, in addition to proposing the use of standardized readability metrics to assess LLM-enhanced descriptions. Full article
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