Mixed Reality simulator for using teams of autonomous UAVs in air pollution monitoring

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are a popular tool for environmental monitoring, as they can, under the right circumstances, observe and take metrics in places that would be cumbersome or dangerous for humans. But using UAV for air pollution monitoring is more challenging, especially when monitoring air pollution high in the atmosphere. A collaboration of researchers from Spain and Italy created a mixed reality simulator in 2016 that essentially teaches UAVs how to safely navigate the sky while also recording air pollution. Because so many objects, manmade and natural, share the sky, it would be unwise and even unsafe to let a UAV independently navigate; air traffic is particularly wary, and there have already been several incidences of commercial drones disrupting air traffic. The researchers created a system whereby one UAV can teach through the use of a shared control system that connects via Internet of Things technology to all UAVs. One UAV encountered and being guided away from a plane or towards a pollution plume, for example, creates a communal blueprint for other UAVs to learn from and hopefully react similarly. By adopting the experience of other UAVs, a fleet can co-evolve from a mixed reality formed by their own and other’s encounters in the air. It isn’t entirely clear how the first UAV is trained, but the implications for this research are broad, and not just for monitoring air pollution but in several commercial ventures. 

Peña, F. López, P. Caamaño, G. Varela, F. Orjales, and A. Deibe. “Setting up a mixed reality simulator for using teams of autonomous UAVs in air pollution monitoring.


Ecological Monitoring, Immersive Technology, Monitoring, Pollution