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Autonomous drones are already here, but can they fly freely in increasingly crowded skies? A ground-breaking software technology enabling the autonomous management of drone fleets and airspace has been developed by an innovative Israeli startup. High Lander has good news for the world of autonomous drone fleet management and airspace control. The company’s developments have been recognized by the Israel Innovation Authority as cutting-edge advancements in computer vision and artificial intelligence.
Drones can carry out a wide range of missions, from security and enforcement to package delivery. However, there are three key problems preventing them from truly taking off:
- Limited battery capacity – drone flight time should be extended beyond the 20-30-minute barrier.
- The human factor – human pilots on the ground are expensive, error-prone, and their activities complicate drone operations. The aim is to make the human pilot redundant and convert the aircraft into autonomous vehicles.
- Increasingly crowded airspace – after solving the problems with batteries and human pilots, air traffic will need to be well managed.
High Lander’s entrepreneurs have identified the need to solve these problems. The company was founded at the end of 2018 by Alon Abelson and Ido Yahalomi. Abelson serves as CEO, leaning on his 20 years of experience in air traffic control in the Israeli Air Force, as well as his familiarity with the world of UAVs and drones. Yahalomi, CTO and VP of Business Development, has vast technological experience in the machine-to-machine field, along with a deep understanding of the worldwide drone market. The company’s team currently includes eight additional experts from the field of unmanned vehicles.
High Lander’s unique, algorithm-based solution is purely software – an advantage that makes it compatible with any drone in the market. Clients do not have to purchase any new drones as new models are constantly and rapidly developed. The High Lander software is adaptable to any off-the-shelf drone platform, allowing them to offer a truly drone-agnostic solution.
The software developed by the team acquires authorized control over a drone within 10 seconds, seamlessly turning it into an autonomous smart drone. As the software does not require any hardware components, it enables the provision to any off-the-shelf drone with complete autonomous capabilities, both on the individual drone level as well as on the multi-drone, multi-operation level. This has been achieved thanks to High Lander’s innovative solution to battery limitations: an automatic rotation of drones which enables air continuity and the 24/7 integration of drones in mission execution.
High Lander is participating in the seventh cohort of the iHLS Security Accelerator. According to the entrepreneurs, the program has introduced them to organizations such as the Israel police and defense industries, accelerating its technological progress and market standing.
The company offers two distinct solutions, designed primarily for the security and public safety markets, both in Israel and abroad:
- Robotic Aerial Security (RAS) – operates multiple charging stations and drones for the purpose of securing and patrolling critical installations, all controlled from a remote command center. The security and alert patrols are pre-programmed and operate autonomously. The competitive advantage lies in the system’s low associated costs, thanks to the ability to use any currently available commercial drones, thereby eliminating the need to purchase expensive, mission-dedicated systems.
- Sight On-Site (SOS) – provides a unique, multi-drone solution for first responders to deploy in dynamic environments such as the scene of an emergency. This is a customized solution providing remote operation of multiple drones in support of emergency operations, controlled from a command center.
The SOS solution can connect to any drone and seamlessly collect, process and distribute mission-critical information in real-time, empowering first responders to act and react quickly, improving safety and reducing response times.
Alon Abelson explains: “When police pilots operate drones, only the pilot can see the visual information and then relay info to the ground forces – neither the operations room nor the commanders in the field can see what the pilot sees. High Lander’s new system connects the three dots of the mission triangle – the pilot, the operations room, and the ground forces.”
“Using our solution, the command center can see and control all available drones, either as coordinated fleets or individual units. The ground forces can use our companion mobile app to keep an eye on what the drones are seeing from their elevated vantage points. Moreover, the command center can order a drone to operate in tandem with ground forces, providing coordinated aerial support for mission-specific needs,” Abelson adds.
The system is an application of SaaS principles in the drone market and it is one of the few solutions that are truly DaaS – Drone as a Service. Clients subscribe to a monthly plan based on the type of coverage they need and the number of drones they have, with other variables and specific features adding to the flexibility of the solution.
Precision landing capability: One of the most significant capabilities developed by the company is the precise landing of drones on small charging stations with 2cm-accuracy, even in high wind conditions. When the drone reaches the landing area it shifts from GPS mode to visual mode, and through the use of a camera it analyzes its location and lands precisely and autonomously.
Collision avoidance capability: The system provides a drone-collision avoidance mechanism and autonomous airspace control. A smart algorithm developed by the company provides the system with the capability to monitor all the drones in the airspace and make decisions in order to prevent collisions, thus ensuring safe flight even without an on-site operator.
In the current global COVID-19 crisis, High Lander’s technology is contributing to the response to the emergency situation. The company offers municipal authorities, police, and other first responders the use of the system for the purpose of stay-at-home operation, law enforcement, and visual documentation, all free-of-charge during the crisis. In addition, the system provides farmers, the Jewish National Fund and Israel Border Police enforcement units the capability to monitor agricultural areas, following the increase in criminal activities in these areas due to the lack of workers as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The software is constantly updating according to the changing requirements. As a result of the pandemic, the software was updated to include features for contactless temperature measurement, as well as the communication of audio messages to the public, alerting to stay at home, etc.
Abelson envisions that in the future, the company will apply its solution also in the security and civilian delivery realms, thanks to the capabilities of long-range controlled flight, as well as landing, charging, and automatic rotation, all without human involvement. This is especially important because in the air traffic management field for drones in general – and for aerial delivery in particular – the FAA in the US will only allow autonomous systems to control autonomous drones.
High Lander’s solution responds specifically to this requirement.