AI Drones: How Artificial Intelligence Works in Drones and Examples

These drone companies are changing the way we deploy military defenses, fight fires and deliver goods.

Written by Sam Daley
AI Drones: How Artificial Intelligence Works in Drones and Examples
Image: Shutterstock
UPDATED BY
Jessica Powers | Nov 22, 2022

Artificial intelligence and drones are a match made in tech heaven. Pairing the real-time machine learning technology of AI with the exploratory abilities of unmanned drones gives ground-level operators a human-like eye-in-the-sky.

More than ever before, drones play key problem-solving roles in a variety of sectors: defense, agriculture, natural disaster relief, security and construction. With their ability to increase efficiency and improve safety, drones have become important tools for everyone from firefighters to farmers. Smart UAVs are so popular, in fact, that they’re now used on more than 400,000 jobs sites worldwide.

Uses of AI Drones

  • Defense
  • Agriculture
  • Delivery
  • Security
  • Disaster relief
  • Construction

Until recently, though, drones were only able to display what their cameras captured. Now, thanks to artificial intelligence software, they can perceive their surroundings, which enables them to map areas, track objects and provide analytical feedback in real-time.

Check out these 13 companies that are using AI to improve a new generation of intelligent drones.

 

13 Examples of AI in Drones

Drones can now use AI to process what they see and report back in real-time, which helps humans accomplish feats previously thought impossible. AI drones survey land, assist military personnel and even fly themselves without a human operator. Additionally, emergency response teams — such as firefighters battling forest fires — use AI drones in containment and recovery efforts.

 

Software for AI Drones

Below are five companies that install AI technology in drones.

 

Location: San Francisco, California

How it’s using AI drones: Skycatch builds software that autonomously captures, processes and analyzes drone data from aerial images. The company’s software turns these aerial images into orthomosaics, 3D meshes or thermal images to get a holistic view of the land being surveyed.

Japanese construction giant Komatsu uses Skycatch-integrated drones on more than 5,500 job sites. According to the company, they can generate 3D imagery that’s accurate up to five centimeters. It then takes the integrated software only about 30 minutes to process aerial images as opposed to days for humans to accomplish the same task.

Location: Austin, Texas

How it’s using AI drones: DroneSense is a drone software platform for public safety officials that takes raw data captured by drones and turns it into actionable insights for police, fire and other emergency teams. The DroneSense OpsCenter enables multiple drone users to collaborate, view what each drone sees and even traces a drone’s flight pattern in real-time.

The DroneSense public safety platform has been used by dozens of teams to combat a variety of public safety threats. The AI-powered software assists SWAT teams in gathering scene intelligence, assessing damage after hurricanes and tornadoes and even employs thermal imaging to locate missing persons.

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

How it’s using AI drones: Neurala is a deep learning neural network that helps drones sift through crowds to find and identify persons of interest. It can even inspect large industrial equipment, like telephone towers, and generate a real-time damage report. The company claims that in order to scan crowds for an individual, its AI-powered software only needs 20 minutes to understand the image of an individual, rather than industry-standard hours or days.

The Lindbergh Foundation uses Neurala-powered drones to combat elephant poaching in Africa. The artificially intelligent drones use the company’s image recognition technology to monitor elephant herds and spot possible poachers miles before they reach the elephants.

 

Location: San Francisco, California

How it’s using AI drones: Scale uses AI and machine learning to help train drones on aerial imagery. The machine learning software helps drones identify, label and map everything from homes in a neighborhood to individual objects like cars.

 

Location: Modi’in, Israel

How it’s using AI drones: Percepto specializes in both software and hardware solutions for AI drones. Its AIM visual data management system can be used by drones, robots and cameras. The software uses AI and deep learning to survey sites for construction inspection, 3D modeling and security patrol. Percepto’s drone-in-a-box is trusted by regulators across the globe and comes in three distinct models that are used in mining and energy facilities to detect gas leaks, monitor construction and more.

More on Drones12 Drone Delivery Companies to Know

 

AI Drone Equipment

 

Below are eight companies making AI-powered drones to accomplish search and rescue missions, scan shelves in warehouses and capture athletes on video.

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

How it’s using AI drones: Brinc’s LEMUR S drone features a quad-copter design, night vision capabilities and a 31-minute flight time, plus the ability to be idle for 10 hours while still capturing video and audio. LEMUR S is ideal for first responders and search and rescue teams that may experience high-risk situations. The drone’s microphone and video capture capabilities allow for conversations as well as reconnaissance.

 

Location: Redwood City, California

How it’s using AI drones: Skydio’s autonomous drones combine AI supercomputers and 13 cameras to capture video footage. The self-flying drone has several different styles of video capture (including tripod mode and follow mode), all of which require no human interaction.

The Skydio drone is used in many fields, including sports. Runners, bikers and hikers can choose a video capture mode and Skydio captures their every move. The drone also autonomously identifies and follows a film's subject

 

Location: San Diego, California

How it’s using AI drones: Shield AI's drone assists ground forces and first responders in exploration and data gathering. Equipped with proprietary “Hivemind” software, the company’s UAVs can communicate with each other to quickly discover surroundings and identify individuals in an emergency situation.

The Shield AI “Hivemind Nova” drone assists law enforcement and military personnel in reconnaissance missions. The robots can access GPS-denied areas such as building interiors and underground facilities to gather ground-level intelligence.

 

Video: Applied Aeronautics

 

Location: Austin, Texas

How it’s using AI drones: Applied Aeronautics uses AI in their fully-autonomous “Albatross” long range, UAV. The company markets their drone for professional use in aerial surveying, pipeline inspections, disaster response and search and rescue. So far, the UAV has been used on every single continent, and it has assisted with everything from marine life conservation to humanitarian aid. The company’s drone can fly for four hours straight and reach speeds of up to 90 miles per hour.

 

Location: San Francisco, California

How it’s using AI drones: Zipline offers logistics solutions through its AI-powered drones, which deliver necessary medicine to communities throughout the world without needing a pilot. The drones are capable of enduring harsh weather and completing trips around the equator in as little as two-and-a-half days.

Read NextWhat Are Cobots and How Are We Using Them?

 

Location: Santa Clara, California

How it’s using AI drones: Orby makes flying drones and robots for businesses. The artificially intelligent drones assist with mapping and the designing of large-scale warehouses and factories. They can also track inventory by using AI that performs a depth analysis on current stock via flight video.

Orby uses drones and AI analytics to scan shelves and automatically track and order new inventory. Drone flights can even be programmed to perform tasks during off-hours and dock themselves.


 

 

Location: Arlington, Virginia

How it’s using AI drones: AeroVironment uses AI to power its autonomous military drones. The company’s drones range from an undetectable three-foot-long recon plane to the Switchblade, which is equipped with a precision strike warhead for military operations. Aerovironment makes a host of AI-powered drones for different military purposes. The company’s UAVs are also being used in agriculture to map field acreage, spot crop health issues and determine irrigation issues.

 

Location: Arlington, Virginia

How it’s using AI drones: BlueHalo partners with government and commercial organizations who want to use its unmanned aerial systems drones for protection and surveillance purposes. BlueHalo utilizes its rapid prototyping capabilities and relationships with government agencies to provide platforms, UASs and pilot support. BlueHalo is able to provide rapid prototyping thanks to SolidWorks 3D modeling, additive manufacturing and CNC based machines.

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