Drones as a Service

"Drones as a Service" at Amazon

The idea of a DaaS

Imagine that you do not just want to start a single drone in order to perform a single mission. Instead you want to offer a service that operates a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles in the form of different shared services that many customers make use of. In order to establish such a Drones as a Service (DaaS) concept, several different technologies and processes have to be integrated into an IT service provision. This book’s intention is to shed a light from different angles on the matter. These are drone technology, network security and infrastructure as well as the processes that are required to operate fleets of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Drones as a Service

This book introduces ideas to create and operate an IT service that uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), also referred to as drones. Such an IT Service’s objective is to deliver an end-to-end service that covers all phases of the UAV-based product delivery.

Today, these phases are work-intensive. Personnel has to transport one or more UAVs to their designated areas of operation. Then there is at least one person necessary to operate a single drone within visibility range. After finishing the mission, a restore, transport and maintenance phase usually follows. Usually cases a human supervisor is constantly remotely connected to the drone as if s/he were the pilot[1].  While doing so, s/he is also able to observe the drone from the ground within viewing distance.

With the progress in science and the adaption of the legal conditions for operation of unmanned aerial vehicles to commercial requirements, this opens a new vistas towards an automated end-to-end scenario for a managed IT service delivery.  Such a service delivery means operating drones in a cost efficient way. Currently the commercial use of mini- and micro drones is still strongly restricted if not generally forbidden. This commercial ban is not only valid in Germany/Europe, but also in the US.[2] However, authorities in many countries work on regulations that are intended to enable commercial use of drone-based IT services as well as to limit the danger that UAVs may represent to people when not properly controlled.

Drones on Demand

This book goes one step further – it covers the topic of drone-based on-demand services that is referred to as Drones as a Service (DaaS). This depicts the equivalent to Software as a Service (SaaS) where customers access and administrate an IT service via standard software and hardware over the internet.

For such a standardised on-demand service provision the customer only pays for the outcome (“business value”) in form of a service delivery. Examples are video recordings, sensor capturing or gathered and refined information that represent an added value to the actual recordings.

The delivery of lightweight goods like pharmaceutics is not in this book’s main focus and therefore only mentioned briefly in some sections.

A DaaS provider is responsible for applying suitable aerial vessels as well as for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of the UAVs and the complete operation of the ground-based facilities. Ideally, there is only one interface to the customer.

[1] The feature where a UAV plot receives a video recording from the drone (e.g. via WLAN) that presents a virtual UAV pilot’s view is referred to as First Person View (FPV).

[2] Do not mix this up with the purely military use – this is a sovereign case of application with entirely different frame conditions than commercial cases of UAV applications.

Outlook on coming developments of Drones as a Serviceconcepts

In the future we may expect that service providers offer Drones as a Service- products in a modular and extensible way in order to be able to adapt the service delivery to certain types of customers (i.e. B2B, B2C, associates, single customers etc.).

Such a modular design would enable service providers to offer a Drones as a Service-provision in a diverse number of regions under various legal conditions.

In contrast to today’s common drone-operation practice, where every mission of a UAV is each a singular project where one or more people have to travel to the site in person in order to ramp up the UAV[3] and perform the actual mission, a DaaS is, to a great extent, operated centrally. A DaaS would also be based on specialised companies that provide this service to customer on a regular basis or for single missions.

It is essential to develop Service Models that allow exercising central control of one or more sets of drones by a limited and therefore economically justifiable number of human controllers. The necessary legal and technical preconditions for scenarios of this kind are currently under development.

[3] Since most missions are somehow related to video recording (private/public events, advertisements) these UAV missions are organised similarly to film shooting where actors, producers, directors and cinematographers meet at the set.