GB2530626A - Unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system and method of control - Google Patents

Unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system and method of control Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2530626A
GB2530626A GB1513021.4A GB201513021A GB2530626A GB 2530626 A GB2530626 A GB 2530626A GB 201513021 A GB201513021 A GB 201513021A GB 2530626 A GB2530626 A GB 2530626A
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United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
unmanned aerial
aerial vehicle
transport platform
strategic management
system
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GB1513021.4A
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GB201513021D0 (en
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Gustavo Carriconde
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Gustavo Carriconde
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Priority to US201462050501P priority Critical
Application filed by Gustavo Carriconde filed Critical Gustavo Carriconde
Publication of GB201513021D0 publication Critical patent/GB201513021D0/en
Publication of GB2530626A publication Critical patent/GB2530626A/en
Application status is Pending legal-status Critical

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Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C39/00Aircraft not otherwise provided for
    • B64C39/02Aircraft not otherwise provided for characterised by special use
    • B64C39/024Aircraft not otherwise provided for characterised by special use of the remote controlled vehicle type, i.e. RPV
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C39/00Aircraft not otherwise provided for
    • B64C39/02Aircraft not otherwise provided for characterised by special use
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C2201/00Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor
    • B64C2201/02Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor characterized by type of aircraft
    • B64C2201/027Flying platforms
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C2201/00Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor
    • B64C2201/06Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor characterised by in-flight supply of energy
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C2201/00Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor
    • B64C2201/12Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor adapted for particular use
    • B64C2201/126Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor adapted for particular use adapted for performing different kinds of missions, e.g. multipurpose use
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C2201/00Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor
    • B64C2201/12Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor adapted for particular use
    • B64C2201/127Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor adapted for particular use for photography, or video recording, e.g. by using cameras
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C2201/00Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor
    • B64C2201/12Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor adapted for particular use
    • B64C2201/128Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor adapted for particular use for transporting goods other than bombs
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C2201/00Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor
    • B64C2201/14Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor characterised by flight control
    • B64C2201/141Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor characterised by flight control autonomous, i.e. by navigating independently from ground or air stations, e.g. by using inertial navigation systems [INS]
    • B64C2201/145Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor characterised by flight control autonomous, i.e. by navigating independently from ground or air stations, e.g. by using inertial navigation systems [INS] using satellite radio beacon positioning systems, e.g. GPS
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C2201/00Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor
    • B64C2201/20Methods for transport, or storage of unmanned aerial vehicles
    • B64C2201/206Methods for transport, or storage of unmanned aerial vehicles by airborne vehicles, e.g. airplanes or helicopters
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C2201/00Unmanned aerial vehicles; Equipment therefor
    • B64C2201/20Methods for transport, or storage of unmanned aerial vehicles
    • B64C2201/208Methods for transport, or storage of unmanned aerial vehicles by landborne vehicles, e.g. trucks, lorries, tanks or cars

Abstract

A deployment system 100 for deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) 108 comprising a powered transport platform 102; which may comprise a vehicle such as a bus, taxi, train or tram or a large UAV, which carries at least one UAV 108 transportable by the transport platform 102, and docking means 106 allowing the or each UAV 108 to autonomously self-dock. In some embodiments the docking means is a docking station comprising a charging means to charge the UAVs. The system nay be used to reduce flight time of the UAVs, or to increase their usable range. The system may be used for logistical purposes, and feature distribution centres 122 and sub-distribution centres 128. A strategic management computer 1200 may be provided as the main hub a management system 100, which may process data including satellite, telemetry and sensor data from the UAV to inform drone deployment.

Description

I

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Deployment System and Method of Control The present invention relates to an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system. It further relates to a method of extending the range of an unmanned aerial vehicle and a method of decreasing the required flight time of an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Additionally, the present invention relates to a strategic management system for the monitoring and/or control of an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system.

Technology has now advanced such that unmanned aerial vehicles (hereinafter referred to as IJAV'), are becoming used in, or being investigated for, many different aspects of modem life. Particular media attention has been drawn to military uses of UAVs, also commonly known as drones. However, civilian uses are becoming ever more popular, especially the use of drones as remotely controllable cameras.

Newer ideas seek to take advantage of the many different abilities of drones in order to create automated systems. For instance, one multinational online-shopping firm has considered the use of UAVs to both speed up and more heavily automate the shipping and delivery process, thus providing an improved service to customers. Unfortunately, current drone technology leads to many issues which limit the usefulness of such systems.

One such issue arises from the current limits of batteries. For instance, early development of the delivery system has been limited to a range of only 20 minutes for delivery, thus requiring customers to be relatively local to a central distribution centre.

Other issues include those associated with weather conditions, Due to the small size of most IJAVs, they are strongly affected by weather, particularly wind or temperature which can impede or prevent flight, depending on its strength and/or intensity.

Furthermore, safety regulations, for instance those outlined by the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the US Federal Aviation Administration, limit the use of drones in built-up areas and around people. Whilst these regulations are likely to evolve over time as drones become more commonplace, it is still likely to be necessary to optimise the use of UAV systems in order to avoid the most crowded areas whenever possible, It is an object of the present invention to provide a system for the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles and a method of control of such a system, which is capable of preventing or limiting the prevalence of the above issues.

According to a first aspect of the invention there is provided an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system for deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles comprising: a powered transport platform; at least one unmanned aerial vehicle transportable by the transport platfonn; and docking means for the unmanned aerial vehicle to autonomously self-dock with and disengage from the powered transport platform to enable supplemented transit.

By enabling the attachment of an unmanned aerial vehicle to a transport platform for transportation, the unmanned aerial vehicle can use less energy on a journey. Instead, it may save energy by travelling on the transport platform for at least a portion of the journey before disengaging to reach its destination. Furthermore, the system can allow unmanned aerial vehicles to travel beyond their theoretical maximum range, by not IS having to fly until closer to a destination, thus expanding their potential area of operation.

Preferably, the docking means may include reenergising means for reenergising the or each docked unmanned aerial vehicle.

Including reenergising means, such as a charging station or unit on-board the transport platform, allows the or each unmanned aerial vehicle to recharge or refuel whilst engaged with the transport platform. As such, operational range may be extended even further.

Preferably, the reenergising means may include a battery charger.

Alternatively or additionally, the reenergising means may include a fuel pump.

This may be advantageous where the unmanned aerial vehicle includes a combustion engine or fuel cell, for example.

Preferably, the powered transport platform may include a rider compartment for the transport of at least one driver and/or passenger. n

Such transport platforms may therefore have additional uses as transport for persons.

More preferably, the powered transport platform may be a public transport vehicle.

Even more preferably, the public transport vehicle may be a bus, taxi, train, or tram.

By using vehicles which are already in use on the roads, such as public transport 3 vehicles, additional congestion due to the use of transport platforms may be avoided.

Additionally, unmanned aerial vehicles may utilise those transport platforms which have predetermined routes travelling close to their destination, so as to optimise efficiency.

Alternatively, the powered transport platform may be a further unmanned aerial vehicle which is larger than the first said unmanned aerial vehicle.

Use of a larger unmanned aerial vehicle for the transport of the or each said unmanned aerial vehicle may allow further advantageous deployment positions to be utilised, such as deployment at altitude.

Optionally, the unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system may further comprise a distribution centre for warehousing and logistics. Warehousing and logistics could include centralised storage, loading, or unloading of unmanned aerial vehicles or the picking-up of or delivery from the distribution centre of parcels or packages, etc. Other activities also included in the encompassing term "warehousing and logistics" are obvious to the skilled person.

The existence of a distribution centre provides a centralised depot for servicing or managing any unmanned aerial vehicles This may be beneficial for allowing efficient management of the system.

Furthermore, the unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system may further comprise at least one sub-disifibution centre for decentralised warehousing and logistics.

Sub-distribution centres allow multiple decentralised depots to be set-up such that unmanned aerial vehicles need not return to a distribution centre, if available, between missions. This can enable a lower or decreased time between missions, without compromising the servicing or reconfiguration of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Preferably, the unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system further includes at least one transport platform stop point.

Transport platform stop points are predetermined destinations where a transport platform may cease to move. It is therefore beneficial for unmanned aerial vehicles to engage or disengage at these stop points, such that no damage or accident may occur by incorrect alignment with a docking means, for instance.

At least one said transport platform stop point may be a bus stop, taxi rank, railway station, or tram stop.

Preferably, the unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system further comprises at least one standby area, associated with a transport platform stop point, for temporary storage of unmanned aerial vehicles prior to docking with the powered transport platform.

Such standby areas may allow unmanned aerial vehicles to cease flying in a safe place, prior to engaging, or after disengaging from a transport platform. Thus, delays in the appearance of a transport platform may be prevented from causing safety issues from hovering unmanned aerial vehicles.

According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of extending the range of an unmanned aerial vehicle, preferably in accordance with the first aspect of the invention, comprising the steps of a] providing the unmanned aerial vehicle, having a predetermined range, at a first location; b] providing the transport platform at second location, the transport platform being capable of transporting the unmanned aerial vehicle; ci the unmanned aerial vehicle travelling from the first location to engage with the transport platform at the second location; d] the transport platform transporting the unmanned aerial vehicle from the second location to a third location; ej the unmanned aerial vehicle travelling from the third location to a fourth location.

The range of an unmanned aerial vehicle tends to be the limiting factor in determining its usefulness, By providing a method of extending this range, unmanned aerial vehicles may become useful for new tasks which require a greater range than that which is ordinarily available, Preferably, in step dl, the unmanned aerial vehicle may be reenergised by the powered transport platform whilst in transit between the second and third locations, Re-energisation may further increase the effective range of the unmanned aerial vehicle, 3 Preferably, the unmanned aerial vehicle may be reenergised by electrical recharging.

According to a third aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of decreasing the required flight time of an unmanned aerial vehicle, preferably in accordance with the first aspect of the invention, comprising the steps of a] providing the unmanned aerial vehicle at an origin; b] providing the transport platform at a first intermediate destination, the transport platform being capable of transporting the unmanned aerial vehicle; ci the unmanned aerial vehicle propelling itself from the origin to the first intermediate destination, being transported by the transport platform from the first intermediate destination to a second intermediate destination, and propelling itself from the second intermediate destination to a final destination, the sum of the distances from the origin to the first intermediate destination and the second intermediate destination to the final destination being less than the distance from the origin to the final destination, thus decreasing the required flight time of the unmanned aerial vehicle, According to a fourth aspect of the invention, there is provided a strategic management system for the monitoring and/or control of an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system preferably in accordance with the first aspect of the invention, the strategic management system comprising: a strategic management computer; and a plurality of data sources, input data from said data sources being receivable and processable by the strategic management computer for the output of strategic management data; strategic management data being automatically usable by the strategic management computer for 23 the monitoring and/or control of said aerial vehicle deployment system.

A strategic management system enables control over the disclosed system, and can allow the system to optimise its usefulness. By using many data sources, large amounts of data may be considered in order to run the system efficiently, providing the best possible service.

Preferably, the plurality of data sources may include at least one human operator for the provision of instructional data.

Preferably, at least one said human operator may include an emergency service operator.

Optionally, the emergency service operator may be one or more of a police operator, a fire service operator, and an ambulance operator.

Emergency service operators may procure the system for a variety of uses, from the monitoring of situations to the delivery of equipment to difficult-to-reach or remote areas.

Preferably, the plurality of data sources may include at least one telemetry sensor associated with a corresponding unmanned aerial vehicle for the provision of IJAV telemetry data.

Telemetry sensors may provide a variety of information about the unmanned aerial vehicle and its immediate surroundings.

Optionally, at least one said telemetry sensor may include a position sensor for the provision of IJAV position data. In this case, the said position sensor may be a navigation system sensor.

More preferably, the navigation system sensor may be usable with GPS, lidar, or inertial navigation systems.

At least one said telemetry sensor may include an energy-level sensor for the provision of UAV energy-level data. In this case, the energy-level sensor may be a battery monitoring sensor. However, alternatively, the energy-level sensor may be a fuel monitoring sensor.

Preferably, at least one said telemetry sensor may include at least one motor temperature sensor for monitoring the temperature of a motor of an unmanned aerial vehicle.

The said plurality of data sources may include at least one environment monitoring sensor for the provision of environmental data.

Environmental data may be used to plan the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles, taking into account any factors which may affect their range or usefulness.

Preferably, at least one said environment monitoring sensor may be a wind sensor.

3 Additionally or alternatively, at least one said environment monitoring sensor may be an environmental temperature sensor.

The environmental data may be usable by the strategic management computer for optimised deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The invention will now be more particularly described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which: Figure 1 shows an embodiment of a transport platform, along with two unmanned aerial vehicles, for use as part of the unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system in accordance with the first aspect of the invention; Figure 2 is a depiction of an embodiment of an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system, in accordance with the first aspect of the invention, including the transport platform of Figure 1; Figure 3 is a graphical depiction of a strategic management system, in accordance with the fourth aspect of the invention.

Referring firstly to Figures 1 and 2, there is shown one embodiment of an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system 100, including a transport platform 102. The transport platform 102, an enlarged view of which forms Figure 1, is a bus 104, in the present embodiment.

Mounted on or to the transport platform 102, preferably on top, is a docking station 106 for receiving and securing unmanned aerial vehicles 108. Although a particular docking station 106 will be described hereinafter, any other suitable docking means can be considered and utilised where appropriate.

Two said unmanned aerial vehicles 108, also known as UAVs, are shown in Figure 1.

Although one of the IJAVs 108 is engaged with the docking station 106 on top of the transport platform 102, the or another docking station may enable docking on a side, front, rear and/or bottom of the transport platform.

By way of example, the docking station 06 hereby includes an exposed docking system 110, into which docking portions 112, such as skids, tracks and/or wheels, of each IJAV 108 may engage. The docking station 106 thus allows supplemented transit of UAVs 108 on the transport platform 102.

The docking station 106 also preferably includes reenergising means 114 for reenergising UAVs 108 when they are docked.

The reenergising means 114 of the present embodiment transmits electrical energy from the docking system 110 directly to the UAV 108 using, for example, a battery charger embedded in the docking system 110, which is not visible. Thus, during transit, the UAV 08 may be recharged with electrical energy, effectively increasing the limited amount of power for any given journey, Similarly, the docking station 106 could include other forms of reenergising means 114, such as a fuel pump for refilling a fuel tank on a UAV 108 that utilises fuel such as petrol or ethanol.

While the reenergising means 114 depicted includes a physical connection, for instance a wired charger, it is also possible to provide other means for charging. For instance, it may be preferable to include a wireless charger or inductive charger, such that no physical connection is required between the transport platform 102 and UAV 108, or in order to provide a waterproof or weather-proof charging means with no exposed contacts, for instance.

The docking station 106 includes, in the present embodiment, four such docking systems 110 enabling up to four IJAVs 108 to be carried on the transport platform 102 at any one time. A greater or lesser amount of docking systems 110 may be utilised, dependent only on the amount of TJAVs with which it is desirable for any one docking station 106 to engage. Any mounted UAVs 108 may therefore be carried on a journey, which is depicted in Figure 2.

UAVs 108 are therefore able to engage with the transport platform 102, which then continues on its course. For instance, in the present embodiment where the transport platform 102 is a bus 104, the transport platform 102 will travel along its normal route 116. At a prescribed time, a docked UAV 108 may then disengage from the transport platform 102 and continue to a destination 118 which may be, for example, a delivery address 120. The disengagement will preferably take place in a position closer to the destination 118 than the IJAV 108 started, such that the UAV 108 may expel less energy, or service an address further away than its on-board range would generally allow. If the UAV 108 has been recharged on the journey by the reenergi sing means 114, the UAV 108 will also be able to utilise an extended range to travel to the destination 118.

In the depicted UAV deployment system 100, it may be advantageous for any UAVs 108 to be centrally dispatched from a distribution centre 122. The distribution centre 122 could be, for example, a parcel sorting centre, whereby UAVs 108 can be loaded with parcels for delivery to a destination 118. Alternatively, it could be a dispatch point for any other fleet of UAVs 108 such as those used by emergency services, monitoring systems, or those for any other use.

Transport platform stop points 124 may also be provided, which are associated with a given journey. Stop points U4 could be, for instance, bus or tram stops, depending on the transport platform 102 being used, or could alternatively be any other predetermined stopping location of a transport platform 102. The benefit of stop points 124 is that they provide specific locations from which TJAVs 108 may embark or disembark a transport platform 102. Given that the transport platform 102 may cease motion at each stop point 124, UAVs 108 will likely find it easier to attach themselves to the docking station 106 and also detach, when necessary, Clearly, UAVs 108 may not always arrive at the distribution centre 122 or stop points 124 at the exact time of the presence of a transport platform 102. As such, standby areas 126, associated with stop points 124, may be placed in positions in the vicinity of their respective stop points 124. These standby areas 126, which may themselves comprise recharging points, shelter, or simply a designated area, thus allow one or more TJAVs 108 to await a transport platform 02 on which they can then travel.

Additionally, it can be beneficial for the system 100 to include one or more sub-distribution centres 128, each of which can be associated with one or more distribution centres 122. These may provide a secondary base for any particular UAV 108 for the storage of the UAV 108 and/or the pick-up and drop-off of packages or tools, for instance.

Thus, preparation of UAVs 108, including loading with packages, tools, or other items may be accomplished at any distribution centre 122 or sub-distribution centre US. Such loading or preparation could be accomplished manually by workers or additionally or alternatively in an automated fashion, for instance using robots or other computer-implemented methods. Once prepared, UAVs 108 may then leave the distribution centre 122 or sub-distribution centre 128 to travel either directly to a transport platform 102, or to a standby area 126 or stop point 124.

Distribution centres 122 and sub-distribution centres 128 may provide greater system efficiency by providing convenient or strategic locations for the storage of certain goods IS and secondary distribution of the UAVs 108. Furthermore, sub-distribution centres 128 may be advantageously positioned such that designated routes from the sub-distribution centres 128 to important or useftil destinations such as stop points 124 may be pre-assigned to avoid over-flight of people or restricted areas. Thus, risk can be mitigated.

Whilst distribution centres 122 may be located away from highly built-up areas, such that they may be of sufficient size for the storage or a large number of UAVs 108 and associated paraphernalia, it can be beneficial for sub-distribution centres 128 to be more strategically positioned, to provide a secondary base for hAys 108 which is, perhaps, closer to more regularly visited destinations 118 or in the vicinity of frequently used transport platform stop points 124.

When the present invention is utilised as a delivery system, for instance, distribution centres 122 could dispatch larger UAVs with larger load carrying capacities in order to provide deliveries to sub-distribution centres US, At this point, smaller hAys could then be used to take packages to individual premises or other destinations. Transport platforms 102 could be used by the larger UAVs as well as the smaller UAVs, such that

II

range may be increased and energy use lowered for each stage of the distribution process The present embodiment of the invention includes an exposed docking system 110 upon which UAVs 108 may be mounted or carried, but alternative systems are possible. For instance, an enclosed docking system, herewith known as a shuttle pod, may also be provided. Such a shuttle pod may include one or more compartments which may also include doors. UAVs 108 entering the or each shuttle pod may therefore be advantageously protected from adverse weather conditions such as excessive heat, cold, or wind, for instance.

Whilst hereby disclosed as being a bus 104, the transport platform 102 may take many different forms, For instance, the transport platform 102 could also be any other form of public transport such as trains, trams, or aeroplanes. The benefits of using such vehicles as transport platforms 102 is that they each run on a predetermined schedule, which may be utilised during planning of the route of a UAV 108. However, it may instead be IS preferable to use other vehicles such as cars or taxis, which may be more prevalent in any given situation.

Alternatively, the transport platform 102 may be a larger UAV, which is capable of carrying smaller UAVs 108. Such a vehicle would be able to deploy the said smaller UAVs 108 in many different positions, such as at altitude or above land or sea, which could be beneficial, Stop points 124, whilst being preferable in order to ease the docking process for UAVs 108, may be omitted from the system. In this case, UAVs 108 may dock with transport platforms 102 during motion. By doing so, journey time can be minimised by reducing the amount of time that UAVs 108 are stationary.

It may be useful to run such an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system 100 using a strategic management system 1000, such as that shown in Figure 3. The strategic management system 1000 may be used to control and monitor the UAV deployment system 100 in order that it may be optimised for a number of different uses, and comprises three main components: a strategic management computer 1200, data sources 1400, and users 1600.

The strategic management computer 1200 may be regarded as the main hub of the strategic management system 1000. As such, it acts as the central communication platform through which information and commands for the system 1000 may be transmitted. Whilst stated as being a computer, the strategic management computer 1200 need not be a single, centralised computer, but could instead be a network of computers or servers, a cloud-based service or other similar ubiquitous data network accessible to a shared pool of configurable computing resources.

A number of data sources 1400 may be associated with the strategic management computer 1200 in order to provide the information required to smoothly and successfully manage the UAV deployment system 100. Figure 3 includes three major groups of data sources 1400, although these are exemplar and not limiting to the types of data sources 1400 which may be usable with the system 1000.

The first data source P100 is telemetry data 1402, which is associated with unmanned aerial vehicles 108. Telemetry data 1402 includes any information or measurements provided by or related to the IJAVs 08. Such data may be provided by any number of telemetry sensors.

These sensors may include position sensors 1404 which provide information on past and present positions of each UAV 108. For instance, position sensors 1404 may include global navigation satellite system sensors, such as those usable with GPS, GLONASS, and GALILEO satellite systems. Alternatively, other such navigation system sensors may be used which do not necessarily utilise satellite data. For instance, sensors for use with an inertial navigation or referencing system may be used in addition to, or instead of, a satellite navigation system sensor. Navigation systems based on ranging may also be used, such as lidar, radar, or sonar, each of which may utilise specific or generic sensors. By knowing the position of UAVs 108, the strategic management system 1000 can coordinate tasks with available and advantageously-positioned UAVs 08, to further enhance energy-efficiency.

Energy-level sensors 1406 may also be useful in order to monitor the amount of energy available to each UAV 108. These may include battery monitoring sensors or friel monitoring sensors. The use of energy-level sensors 1406 can allow the range of each UAV 108 to be calculated, which may allow better planning of UAV deployment.

Other sensors usable with the strategic management system 1000 may include motor temperature sensors 1408, associated with the motors of UAVs 08. Especially in hot weather, UAVs 108 may suffer from overheating of their motors, Such overheating can cause inefficient operation of the motors, and an associated lowering of the range of the UAV 108. Therefore, knowing the motor temperature can allow UAVs 108 to be deployed or recalled when necessary.

Environmental conditions are also important when considering the use of UAVs 108, and therefore a network of environmental condition data 1410, including sensors such as environmental temperature sensors 1412, wind sensors 1414, and precipitation sensors 1416 may be utilised to give the strategic management computer 1000 information which may be of use. Alternatives or additions to these sensors could IS include atmospheric pressure sensors, or interference sensors such as magnetic interference sensors or infrared interference sensors, for instance. Other sensors may also be used, depending on the type of information which is adjudged to be potentially useful, Information from sensors could also be combined with forecast data 1418 for longer-term planning.

Environmental sensors for gathering environmental condition data 140 may be positioned on the UAVs 108 themselves, on distribution and sub-distribution centres 122, 128, or in any other useful position. For instance, the environmental sensors may be positioned on any other part of the unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system 1000 or separately as part of a weather station, The strategic management computer 1200 may utilise the environmental condition data 1410 to decide upon deployment of available UAVs 108. For instance, if the wind is particularly strong, a larger UAV may be utilised which can cope with high wind speeds due to its larger mass, Alternatively, the route of the UAV 108 to its destination can be altered to avoid a particular area, perhaps by use of a different transport platform 102.

Similar adjustments may be made dependent on temperature, precipitation or other environmental condition data 1410.

Additional data sources available to the strategic management computer 1200 may include transport information data 1420 for the movements of transport platforms 102.

Clearly this information may be provided in relation to timetabled transport platforms 102 such as buses or trains by timetables N22, but live transport information 1424 could also be provided, both in relation to buses and trains, but also in relation to other transport platforms 102.

Live transport information 1424 can include up-to-date running times to public transport, including any delays or alterations to services. Furthermore, such live transport information 1424 could be gathered from mobile computers or sensors associated with transport platforms 102, for instance GPS or other navigational applications, which could transmit route and destination information to the strategic management computer 1200. This information can again be used to optimise the deployment of UAVs 108 using the strategic management system 1000.

A number of users 1600 may also be associated with the strategic management computer 1200 in order to both provide and harvest information and commands.

A beneficial use of the strategic monitoring system 1000 could be to provide monitoring of accidents such as road accidents, or major events such as sporting events, entertainment events, or disasters, natural or otherwise. Therefore, users 1600 could include members of the emergency services 1602, for instance police 1604, fire 1606, ambulance 1608, and coast guard 1610 services.

Potentially, the emergency services 1602 could, in such situations, ensure the continuous monitoring of situations, for instance by using cameras attached to UAVs 102. The strategic management system 1000 could therefore be commanded by the emergency services 1602 to monitor said situations, and would then proceed to ensure a suitable number of UAVs 102 are in the area and operational, at any one time.

Similarly, other users 1600 could utilise the strategic management system 1000 for other situations. For instance, civil defence services 1612 could monitor any potential unrest, traffic management departments 1614 could monitor traffic and road accidents, and school patrols 1616 could monitor children, ensuring their safety on their way to and from school.

Delivery services l68 could also use the strategic management system 1000 to optimise their delivery service. The input of destination and route data could allow the strategic management computer 1200 to plan the most optimum solution for delivering all of the packages in the fastest and most efficient manner. Furthermore, combining this user-input information 1600 with the data sources 1400 previously mentioned would allow amendment of the optimum solution at any time in order to take into account TJAV telemetry 1402, environmental conditions 1408, alterations to timetables 1422, or any other relevant information.

It may also be beneficial for the strategic management system 1000 to include a human operator 1800 in order that the system 1000 itself may be overseen. Such an operator 1800 can be one of the above-mentioned users 1600, or can even be a combination of many of the users 1600. Alternatively, a dedicated operator 1800 may be utilised, in IS order to coordinate all of the users 1600 and provide a central point of contact for the strategic management system 1000.

In summary, the strategic management system 1000 allows the coordination of UAV 108 deployment in an efficient and practical manner, taking into account a large number of variables including required tasks, routes, UAV telemetry 1402, managing the recharging of UAVs, and responding to any user inputs.

It is therefore possible to provide an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system which is capable of more efficiently deploying UAVs in desired positions and assisting with travel between destinations, such that range of the UAVs is increased and deployment positions may be optimised, depending on use. It is also possible to provide a strategic management system for the control of such a deployment system, which can compute multiple sources of data along with user input to provide efficient control, planning, and management, The words comprises/comprising' and the words having/including' when used herein with reference to the present invention are used to specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps or components, but do not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers, steps, components or groups thereof.

It is appreciated that certain features of the invention, which are, for clarity, described in the context of separate embodiments, may also be provided in combination in a single embodiment. Conversely, various features of the invention which are, for brevity, described in the context of a single embodiment, may also be provided separately or in any suitable sub-combination.

The embodiments described above are provided by way of examp'es only, and various other modifications will be apparent to persons skilled in the field without departing from the scope of the invention herein described and defined.

Claims (11)

  1. Claims 1 An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system for deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles comprising: a powered transport platform; at least one unmanned aerial vehicle transportable by the transport platform and docking means for the unmanned aerial vehicle to autonomously self-dock with and disengage from the powered transport platform to enable supplemented transit.
  2. 2. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the docking means includes reenergising means for reenergi sing the or each docked unmanned aerial vehicle.
  3. 3. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in claim 2, wherein the reenergising means includes a battery charger.
  4. 4, An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in claim 2 or claim 3, wherein the reenergising means includes a fuel pump.
  5. 5. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the powered tnmsport platform includes a rider compartment for the transport of at least one driver and/or passenger.
  6. 6. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in claim 5, wherein the powered transport platform is a public transport vehicle.
  7. 7. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in claim 6, wherein the public transport vehicle is a bus, taxi, train, or tram.
  8. 8, An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in any one of claim 1 to 4, wherein the powered transport platform is a further unmanned aerial vehicle which is larger than the first said unmanned aerial vehicle.
  9. 9. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 8, further comprising a distribution centre for warehousing and logistics.
  10. 10. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 9, ftirther comprising at least one sub-distribution centre for decentralised warehousing and logistics.
  11. 11. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 10, further comprising at least one transport platform stop point, U. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in claim II, wherein at least one said transport platform stop point is a bus stop, taxi rank, railway station, or tram stop.13. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in claim 11 or claim 12, further comprising at least one standby area, associated with a transport platform stop point, for temporary storage of unmanned aerial vehicles prior to docking with the powered transport platform.N. An unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to Figure 1 and Figure 2 of the accompanying drawings.15. A method of extending the range of an unmanned aerial vehicle using ax' unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, the method comprising the steps of: al providing the unmanned aerial vehicle, having a predetermined range, at a first location; bi providing the transport platform at a second location, the transport platform being capable of transporting the unmanned aerial vehicle; ci the unmanned aerial vehicle travelling from the first location to engage with the transport platform at the second location; di the transport platform transporting the unmanned aerial vehicle from the second location to a third location; el the unmanned aerial vehicle travelling from the third location to a fourth location.6. A method as claimed in claim 15 wherein, in step di, the unmanned aerial vehicle is reenergised by the powered transport platform whilst in transit between the second and third locations.U. A method as claimed in claim 6, wherein the unmanned aerial vehicle is reenergised by electrical recharging.8. A method of decreasing the required flight time of an unmanned aerial vehicle using an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in any one of claims ito 14, the method comprising the steps of: aj providing the unmanned aerial vehicle at an origin; bi providing the transport platform at a first intermediate destination, the transport platform being capable of transporting the unmanned aerial vehicle; ci the unmanned aerial vehicle propelling itself from the origin to the first intermediate destination, being transported by the transport platform from the first intermediate destination to a second intermediate destination, and propelling itself from the second intermediate destination to a final destination, the sum of the distances from the origin to the first intermediate destination and the second intermediate destination to the final destination being less than the distance from the origin to the final destination, thus decreasing the required flight time of the unmanned aerial vehicle.19. A method as claimed in claim 18 wherein, in step c], the unmanned aerial vehicle is reenergised by the powered transport platform whilst being transported between the first and second intermediate locations.20. A method as claimed in claim 19, wherein the unmanned aerial vehicle is reenergi sed by electrical recharging.21. A strategic management system for the monitoring and/or control of an unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system as claimed in any one of claims I to 14, the strategic management system comprising: a strategic management computer; and a plurality of data sources, input data from said data sources being receivable and processable by the strategic management computer for the output of strategic management data; strategic management data being automatically usable by the strategic management computer for the monitoring and/or control of said unmanned aerial vehicle deployment system.22. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 21, wherein the plurality of data sources includes at least one human operator for the provision of instructional data.23. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 22, wherein at least one said human operator includes an emergency service operator.24. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 23, wherein the emergency service operator is at least a police operator.25. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 23, wherein the emergency service operator is at least a fire service operator.26. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 23, wherein the emergency service operator is at least an ambulance operator.27. A strategic management system as claimed in any one of claims 21 to 26, wherein the plurality of data sources includes at least one telemetry sensor associated with a corresponding unmanned aerial vehicle for the provision of LTAV telemetry data.28. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 27, wherein at least one said telemetry sensor includes a position sensor for the provision of IJAV position data.29. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 28, wherein the said position sensor is a navigation system sensor.30. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 29, wherein the navigation system sensor is usable with GPS, lidar, or inertial navigation systems.3L A strategic management system as claimed in any one of claims 27 to 30, wherein at least one said telemetry sensor includes an energy-level sensor for the provision of UAV energy-level data.32. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 31, wherein the energy-level sensor is a battery monitoring sensor.33. A strategic management system as claimed in claim 32, wherein the energy-level sensor is a fuel monitoring sensor.34. A strategic management system as claimed in any one of claims 27 to 33, wherein at least one said telemetry sensor includes at least one motor temperature sensor for monitoring the temperature of a motor of an unmanned aerial vehicle.35. A strategic management system as claimed in any one of claims 21 to 34, wherein the said plurality of data sources includes at least one environment monitoring sensor for the provision of environmental data.36. A strategic management system a claimed in claim 35, wherein at least one said environment monitoring sensor is a wind sensor.37. A sirategic management system as claimed in claim 35or claim 36, wherein at least one said environment monitoring sensor is an environmental temperature sensor.38. A strategic management system as claimed in any one of claims 35 to 36, wherein environmental data is usable by the strategic management computer for optimised deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles.39. A strategic management system substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to Figure 3 of the accompanying drawings.
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