Automatic landing is one of the vital features of drones. A drone, at present, relies on GPS and its return to launch (RTL) functionality to land from where it took off. It simply remembers the geographical coordinates of its take-off spot and land backs there.
This technique is unreliable and is of little to no use if a drone is without GPS coverage. Not only this, it lacks precision too. To give you an example, if a GPS failure occurs when a drone took off from a densely packed warehouse, then it may miss its take-off spot by several meters while landing.
This will lead it to collide with other parked drones or real-estates in the warehouse. Given that drones and robots are going to play a key role in logistic operations in the future – Amazon, as an example – precise landing is expected.
A recent patent application by Qualcomm discloses a method meeting this expectation. The method described in the patent provides landing precision par to a drone operator.
As per the patent application, a drone using this landing method wouldn’t rely only on GPS but real time sensor data – camera feed, traffic and position information of other drones, etc.
When a drone will approach landing and face obstructions at its designated landing spot, it will use its real time camera feed to find alternative landing bay. Also, to find an alternative landing position, it stays in touch with other drones and their position information. This helps it to tweak its flight path.
This is almost similar to how a pilot or a drone operator behaves. If he finds another aircraft at his designated landing spot, he adjusts his approach and gets a craft landed. Drones don’t have that ability at the moment and thus lacks this skill which Qualcomm’s patent application is seems to be covering.
As I mentioned above, such intelligence is expected from these machines as we will be seeing them everywhere soon. They are going to play a vital role not only in logistics but in a lot more areas.
Amazon is already working on carrying out deliveries using drones, we also saw a patent by ecommerce giant on a completely autonomous floating warehouse.
As Amazon is moving so fast towards using drones to deliver stuff, I think this is a problem they must have came across and probably are working on a solution too. They have already solved their payload problem in drone deliveries.
Last but not the least, a patent application on Drones by Qualcomm initially caught me off guard. However, considering it to be in the league of companies making most out of its patent assets, such a diversification in technologies is normal.
This diversification is something which will help it make money from patent licensing in the future.