Use cases & solutions Urban air operations

Innovative drone applications with societal and economic impact

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Saxion University of Applied Sciences will present three use cases during ADW Hybrid 1 - 3 December that anticipate future applications with drones. The use cases are provided by Abeje Mersha, Professor of Unmanned Robotic Systems at Saxion, and they focus on innovative drone technologies with significant societal and economic impact. Mersha briefly explains how their drone technologies support society and their economic impact in safety & security and inspection & maintenance application domains.

Autonomous Drone for Emergency Response
One of the pitches is about an autonomous security drone. It responds autonomously to a security alarm and then takes off independently to investigate. This can be in response to a fire alarm or smoke detection, but also in the case of a burglar alarm or even a detection camera above a highway. Mersha: “The security drone responds completely autonomously, so without human intervention. It can be deployed 24/7. The drone is equipped with multiple onboard sensors, such as a normal camera and thermal imaging camera. Once it takes off, it independently flies to the incident location and immediately transmits information to a manned control room.

“According to experts from the partner fire brigade, the first two minutes after a fire incident are essential to be able to fight a fire effectively. They themselves cannot possibly be so quickly on the spot. Our autonomous security drone can do that.”

Flying robotic hand
A next pitch that Mersha will present during ADW Hybrid concerns an inspection and maintenance drone with a robotic arm, dubbed the "flying robotic hand " by Mersha. “Wind turbines stand still for a significant amount of time because of inspection and maintenance that also has to be carried out by people. That is dangerous and time consuming work. And the turbines do not provide energy during this period, which has negative economic consequences. With a special drone equipped with a robotic arm, wind turbines can be inspected in a safe and a much faster way. “Inspection with only a camera is usually not enough,” explains Mersha. “Physical inspections are also required more and more often. Our research, in the context of the MARS4Earth (Modular Aerial Robotic Systems for Sustainable Living on Earth) project, shows that an autonomous flying robot arm can provide enormous improvement in such situations. Not only in terms of safety, by the way: with the use of these drones, installations do not have to be shut down for as long. The so-called downtime decreases significantly and the return increases.”

The flying arm can physically interact with the wind turbine just like a human. Mersha: "So in addition to eyes, ears and even a nose, this drone also has hands in the air." Mersha hopes to be able to test the flying arm in Eemshaven within the next few months.

Hidden Graves
The third pitch from Saxion University of Applied Sciences shows a drone that is equipped with a ground penetrating radar, among other things. Jaap Knotter, Professor of Advanced Forensic Technology at Saxion and Professor of specialised investigation at the Police Academy, conducted the research with the title Hidden Graves. The aim of this project is to develop a drone-based system for on-site detection of buried bodies or cadavers. Those techniques will enable on-site localization and documentation of crime scenes.

Mersha: “We have equipped a drone with various sensors and algorithms to collect and process data on the spot and on the fly. It uses thermal and hyperspectral cameras, ground penetrating radar, gas detectors, electrical conductivity and electrical resistivity sensors. Through the use of machine learning techniques, the data obtained is combined, modeled and interpreted to locate the hidden graves without contaminating the crime scene.”This can help the police and the judiciary to search very efficiently for buried bodies or illegally buried animals. Currently, such investigations are still very time-consuming and require a lot of manpower.

Amsterdam Drone Week Hybrid 1 – 3 December 2020
Amsterdam Drone Week is the global platform for sharing knowledge on current air solutions, potential innovations and vital regulations. Creating valuable connections with all key players, knowledge institutes and authorities to co-create and cooperate to build the UAM ecosystem. Abeje Mersha is a speaker at ADW Hybrid on all three days of the event, during the following timeslots:
Tuesday 1 December, 15.40 CET: Autonomous Drone for Emergency Response
Wednesday 2 December, 10.00 CET: Drone Highways; 11.00 CET: Flying Robotic Arm Sciences
Thursday 3 December,11.40 CET: Hidden Graves
For more information and ticketing visit:


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