Irish AI drones could help with coastal surveillance

29 May 2024

Image: Tyndall National Institute

Prof Holger Claussen of Tyndall Dublin said that the Guard project has potential to ‘transform’ how Ireland and other countries survey their maritime space.

New drone technology being developed at Tyndall National Institute in University College Cork (UCC) could be deployed for maritime surveillance along the coast of Ireland.

Funded by the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF), the Guard project has developed a range of new smart drones that can enhance coastal surveillance and help the Government catch drug smuggling as and when it happens.

Tyndall, which developed the drones in collaboration with University College Dublin, University of Limerick and other institutions, and included input from the Irish Naval Service, said it hopes the Guard project will provide an improvement on more traditional and expensive methods of maritime surveillance, such as using ships and helicopters for interception.

The idea is to try and eliminate some of the challenges in drone development, including high costs, difficulty in operation, regulations and limitations arising out of harsh weather conditions.

“This project has the potential to transform how Ireland and other countries survey their maritime space, said Prof Holger Claussen of the Wireless Communications Laboratory at Tyndall Dublin, “while promoting Ireland as a leader in smart drones, future communications, AI and virtual/augmented reality in a harsh environment.”

Equipped with the ability to take off vertically, a class of aircraft known as vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), the drone can travel 800km amid hard weather conditions and land safely on vessels at sea or on land.

Tyndall said the Guard drone has reliable low-latency multi-connectivity, including a gigabit mm-wave link that is critical for real-time applications such as controlling drones remotely. It also has automatic flight plan and permissions for operation in civil airspace, automatic creation of a digital twin of a surveyed area and AI-based video analysis, and VR control enabling intuitive decision-making.

The DTIF fund aims to encourage collaboration between industry and the research sector to foster the development and commercialisation of new technologies. The Government launched the seventh call for the funding earlier this month.

Dr Imelda Lambkin, who manages the fund at Enterprise Ireland, said that it is “fantastic” to see the first ground-breaking technologies emerging from the DTIF portfolio.

“With the announcement of the latest call seven for applications, we’re open for business and looking for new collaborations between companies and researchers to develop and deploy disruptive technologies and applications on a commercial basis.”

Just this week, Dublin City Council published its first strategy on drone technology that will see the creation of a dedicated drones unit to oversee their use in emergency services and building inspections.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic