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Title:
DRONE TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AND METHOD
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/102360
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A drone traffic management system is provided, the system comprising a mapping module, which is either installed or fitted on each drone or which is accessible by each drone before and/or during flight, the mapping module defining a flying level (or airway) in respect of which the drone is obliged to fly within during a particular flight. A controller is provided at each drop off zone to control the exit of the drone from its designated flying level to enable it to arrive at its destination. In an embodiment, the system includes a central control station to monitor the flying drones, and to detect when a drone is off course and/or not flying at its designated flying level for its particular flight. Regarding the latter, the control station is allowed to take over control of the drone, but typically only under certain conditions and in accordance with determined regulations.

Inventors:
WALKER, Grant Robert James (4 Naivasha Road, SunninghillJohannesbur, 2146 Gauteng, 2146, ZA)
Application Number:
IB2018/059155
Publication Date:
May 31, 2019
Filing Date:
November 21, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
WALKER, Grant Robert James (4 Naivasha Road, SunninghillJohannesbur, 2146 Gauteng, 2146, ZA)
International Classes:
G05D1/02; F41J9/08; G01S19/39; G04R20/02; G05D1/04; H04N21/422
Domestic Patent References:
WO2016154947A12016-10-06
Foreign References:
US20170229025A12017-08-10
US20160068264A12016-03-10
US20170301220A12017-10-19
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FIANDEIRO, João Achada (2nd Floor, 34 Fredman Drive, ,,Sandto, Johannesburg 2196 Gauteng, 2196, ZA)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A drone traffic management system, the system comprising: a mapping module, the mapping module defining a flying level in respect of which the drone is obliged to fly within during a particular flight; and a controller to control the exit of the drone from its designated flying level to enable it to arrive at its end destination.

2. The system of claim 1 , which includes a central control station to monitor the flying drones, and to detect when a drone is off course and/or not flying at its designated flying level for its particular flight.

3. The system of claim 2, wherein when the drone is off course and/or not flying at its designated flying level for its particular flight, the control station is arranged to take over control of the drone.

4. The system of claim 2, wherein each drone is fitted with a communications module to enable the drone to communicate with other drones and the central control station, to ensure that no accidents occur during flight.

5. The system of claim 4, wherein the defined flying levels allow bidirectional flight, with the drones only being allowed to fly a predetermined distance apart from each other, in height and/or lateral width, within each flying level.

6. The system of claim 4, wherein the mapping module includes a GPS positioning system, to enable the drone to communicate its position with the central control station, with application software on the drone ensuring that the drone remains on course and within its designated flying level.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein the GPS positioning system can receive GPS coordinates from the central control station and/or a customer in respect of the drone’s end destination.

8. The system of claim 7, wherein as the drone approaches the end destination, the central control station and/or the customer and/or the controller authorizes the drone to leave its designated flying level so as to arrive at the drone’s end destination.

9. The system of claim 8, wherein once the drone is proximate the end destination, the drone is arranged to move laterally a predetermined distance, into a drop off zone channel, so as to not block the flying level, until it receives the authorization that it may leave its designated flying level.

10. The system of claim 4, wherein a drone within a particular level can only communicate with a drone on the same level.

1 1. The system of claim 8, wherein the controller is arranged to turn off all surveillance equipment on the drone when proximate the end destination.

12. The system of claim 1 , wherein the system is implemented over pre determined, specific roads or paths, with no deviation being allowed unless authorised by the central control station.

13. The system of claim 1 , wherein the mapping module is either installed or fitted on each drone or is accessible by each drone before and/or during flight.

14. A drone traffic management method, the method comprising: determining a flying level in respect of which a drone is obliged to fly within during a particular flight; communicating the designated flying level to the drone; and controlling the exit of the drone from its designated flying level to enable it to arrive at its end destination.

15. The method of claim 14, which includes monitoring the flying of drones, detecting when a drone is off course and/or not flying at its designated flying level for its particular flight, in which case the method includes the step of taking over control of the drone.

16. The method of claim 15, which includes communicating the drone’s position to a central control station, with application software on the drone ensuring that the drone remains on course and within its designated flying level. 17. The method of claim 16, wherein the method includes receiving GPS coordinates from the central control station and/or a customer in respect of the drone’s destination.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein upon arrival at its end destination, the method includes turning off all surveillance equipment on the drone when proximate the end destination.

Description:
DRONE TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AND METHOD

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

THIS INVENTION relates to a drone traffic management system and method.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Drones have gained widespread acceptance and popularity over the last few years, not only as a recreational toy but also as a business tool to deliver packages, for example. Although there are regulations in place to control the nature and extent to which a drone may fly, such as a restriction on flying over homes for privacy reasons, these vary from country to country. In general, however, these and other regulations may impose limitations that reduce the full use and advantages of using drones as a business tool (in particular).

It is therefore an aim of the present invention to provide an acceptable framework, in the form of a drone traffic management system and method, which not only addresses privacy concerns but that also accommodates the use of drones as business tools.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to a first aspect of the invention there is provided a drone traffic management system, the system comprising: a mapping module, which is either installed or fitted on each drone or which is accessible by each drone before and/or during flight, the mapping module defining a flying level (or airway) in respect of which the drone is obliged to fly within during a particular flight; and a controller at each drop off zone to control the exit of the drone from its designated flying level to enable it to arrive at its destination.

In an embodiment, the system includes a central control station to monitor the flying drones, and to detect when a drone is off course and/or not flying at its designated flying level for its particular flight. Regarding the latter, the control station is allowed to take over control of the drone, but typically only under certain conditions and in accordance with determined regulations.

In an embodiment, each drone is fitted with a communications module to enable the drone to communicate with other drones and the central control station, to ensure that no accidents occur during flight.

In this regard, the defined airways provided by the mapping module typically allow bidirectional flight (with the drones having to fly at least 2 metres apart from each other, in height and/or lateral width) within each level of the airway, so as to manage the flying drones.

In an embodiment, the mapping module includes a GPS positioning system, to enable the drone to communicate its position with the central control station, with application software on the drone ensuring that the drone remains on course and within its designated airway.

In turn, the GPS positioning system can receive GPS coordinates from the central control station and/or a customer in respect of the drop off zone. Typically, as the drone approaches the drop off zone, the central control station and/or the customer and/or the controller must authorize the drone to leave its designated airway so as to arrive at the intended drop off zone. In this regard, once the drone approaches the drop off zone, the drone is arranged to move laterally a predetermined distance, into a drop off zone channel, so as to not block the airway, until it receives the authorization that it may leave its designated airway. In an embodiment, a drone within a particular level may only communicate with a drone on the same level.

In an embodiment, the controller is arranged to turn off all surveillance equipment on the drone when proximate the drop off zone, or in accordance with general, overriding regulations (such as when flying over prisons, for example).

In an embodiment, the flying levels may be determined by, or be in accordance with, aeronautical regulations.

It is envisaged that the present invention may be implemented over pre-determined, specific roads or paths, with no deviation being allowed unless authorised by the central control station.

In the event of a failure event (either a primary failure or a secondary failure), the drone is authorised to leave its airway, detect proximate drones, and then land at either a dedicated drone station or immediately on the ground, depending on the severity and/or priority of the failure event, and in line with regulations.

According to a second aspect of the invention there is provided a drone traffic management method, the method comprising: determining a flying level in respect of which a drone is obliged to fly within during a particular flight; communicating the designated flying level to the drone; and controlling the exit of the drone from its designated flying level to enable it to arrive at its destination.

In an embodiment, the method includes monitoring the flying of drones, detecting when a drone is off course and/or not flying at its designated flying level for its particular flight, in which case the method includes the step of taking over control of the drone. In an embodiment, the method includes communicating the drone’s position to a central control station, with application software on the drone ensuring that the drone remains on course and within its designated airway.

In an embodiment, the method includes receiving GPS coordinates from the central control station and/or a customer in respect of the drop off zone.

In an embodiment, upon arrival at its destination, the method includes turning off all surveillance equipment on the drone when proximate the destination.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Figure 1 shows a high-level schematic block diagram of a drone traffic management system, according to a first aspect of the invention; and

Figure 2 shows a schematic flow chart of a drone traffic management system, according to a second aspect of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF AN EXAMPLE EMBODIMENT

Referring first to Figure 1 , according to a first aspect of the invention there is provided a drone traffic management system 10 for a plurality of drones 12.

The system 10 comprises a mapping module 14, which is either installed or fitted on each drone 12 or which is accessible by each drone 12 before and/or during flight. The mapping module 14 defines a flying level or airway 16 in respect of which the drone 12 is obliged to fly within during a particular flight. Of course, upon arrival at its destination, such as a drop off zone 18, the drone 12 may be allowed to exit its specific level 16 to enable it to drop off a package 20, for example. The system 10 further includes a controller 21 at each destination or drop off zone 18 to control the exit of the drone 12 from its designated flying level 16. This enables the drop 12 to arrive at its destination, and drop off its package 20 at the drop off zone 18, in the case of a delivery, or collect a package from the drop off zone 18, in the case of a collection.

In an embodiment, the system 10 includes a central control station 22 to monitor the flying of the drones 12, and to detect when a drone 12 is off course and/or not flying at its designated flying level 16 for its particular flight. Regarding the latter, the control station 22 is allowed to take over control of the drone 12, if/as required.

Each drone 12 is fitted with a communications module 24 to enable the drone 12 to communicate with other drones 12 (via their own communications module 24) and the central control station 22 (via its own communications module 26). This ensures that no accidents occur during flight, by ensuring, as a minimum, that drones 12 within a particular level 16, or even adjacent levels, communicate with each other. In this regard, the defined airways 16 provided by the mapping module 14 typically allows bidirectional flight within each level 16 of the airway, so as to manage the flying drones 12.

In an embodiment, each communications module 24 is fitted with a positional system 28, such as a GPS positioning system, which is in communication with the communications module 26 of the control station 22 and the communications modules 24 of other drones 12 in the vicinity.

In turn, the GPS positioning system can receive GPS coordinates from the central control station 22 and/or a customer in respect of the drop off zone 18. Typically, as the drone approaches the drop off zone 18, the central control station 22 and/or the customer and/or the controller 21 must authorize the drone 12 to leave its designated airway 16 so as to arrive at the intended drop off zone 18. In this regard, once the drone 12 approaches the drop off zone 18, the drone 12 is arranged to move laterally a predetermined distance, into a drop off zone channel, so as to not block the airway 16, until it receives the authorization that it may leave its designated airway. In an embodiment, the controller 21 is arranged to turn off all surveillance equipment on the drone 12, such as cameras 30 etc. when proximate the drop off zone 18.

In one version, the invention allows the central control station 22 to implement an emergency procedure, which will enable the drones 12 to move to a required destination irrespective of the airway level 16 in which it is flying. Typically, this procedure would involve the drones 12 flying in the quickest and shortest manner possible, in which case an emergency signal would be sent to all drones 12 in the general path, with all other drones 12 being instructed to maintain a holding pattern of sorts to ensure that there are no collisions mid-flight.

Turning now to Figure 2, the invention extends to a drone traffic management method 50, the method comprising determining a flying level in respect of which the drone is obliged to fly within during a particular flight, as indicated by block 52.

The method 50 further includes communicating the designated flying level to the drone, as indicated by block 52, and then monitoring the exit of the drone from its designated flying level to enable it to arrive at its destination, as indicated by block 54.

In an embodiment, the method 50 includes monitoring the flying of drones, detecting when a drone is off course and/or not flying at its designated flying level for its particular flight, and then taking over control of the drone, as required.

The method includes monitoring that each drone follows a unidirectional flight within each level of the airway. In an embodiment, upon arrival at its destination, the method includes turning off all surveillance equipment on the drone, such as cameras etc. when proximate the destination.

There are many applications of the drone traffic management system and method described above, such as the delivery of medical supplies in an emergency, and for evacuation purposes.