Some people might call it a computer. We call it “the brain”. Meet our navigation module Intelligent Sensing And Automated Control, or short: ISAAC. It is the module that makes our drone capable of precision navigation and mapping around aircraft. Our software and engineering teams have been working hard in the past months creating a complete overhaul including new features and components. In this article we describe the updates in more detail and what they mean for customers performing automated aircraft inspections.
“We are aiming for an approach that keeps the hardware elements on the drone as modular as possible. The new components tie in great with that philosophy because it will make it a lot easier to implement future upgrades to both computer as well as Lidar module.“Jochem Verboom, Chief Technology Officer at Mainblades
1. Approach to modularity
Probably the biggest change on our new ISAAC is the approach to modularity. Our previous module combined both the Lidar and computer into one device. After the update these two were separated. The new housing of the ISAAC module, which is based on a 3D printed design, is now separate from the Lidar and attached to the top of the drone. For connection, LEMO connectors are used which can be found also in the Formula 1 domain. The Lidar is still sitting underneath the drone but received a big update. If you want to learn more about it, check out our latest article in which we share more details about its technology and our new partnership with American Lidar supplier Ouster.
2. More processing power
One major upgrade that founds its way into our new ISAAC is a new board computer provided by AAEON. The new COM Express module has the size of a creditcard and provides twice as much processing power, all while maintaining maximum functionality and flexibility. But not only that. AAEON’s modules include standardized form factors following the industry-wide type 10 standard. Keeping in mind our approach to modularity, this will also make future processing power upgrades much easier to implement as Mainblades will have a range of powerful, compact and flexible options to choose from.
4. Water resistance
The new ISAAC housing complies with the IP67 rating. This means that the module will remain protected and fully operational when exposed to external influences such as water and dust.
3. 5G & WiFi capability
The new ISAAC module will feature 5G as well as WiFi capabilities. This means that our software team is able to maintain and log the state of the module remotely, without having to be physically close to the drone. Additionally, ISAAC is now able to interface with our cloud environment directly, making over-the-air-updates a lot easier. Lastly, the remote access from the web allows us to create maps and models of aircraft with a much more restricted crew, reducing the required amount of personnel on-site.
What does this mean for customers?
- Round the clock support
Through the added 5G and WiFi capabilities the drone can connect to our team of experts remotely. We are able to run constant diagnostics and track the status of the drone without being on-site. Whether you need assistance overnight, during the week, or even on the weekend, one of our engineers will be available to resolve your technical issues.
- Remote updates
This also includes receiving important software updates. We constantly push our technology further, adding new features which will become available to all customers immediately.
- Outdoor drone inspections
The water and dust resistance of the new ISAAC housing means that customers can perform outdoor inspections comfortably without having to worry about damaging the hardware. Outdoor aircraft inspections will be a true game changer. They are going to help stakeholders to improve turnaround times and data quality, while increasing safety and speed of operation. No aircraft repositioning or special preparations required.
Drone technology is advancing, though currently not fast enough. In order for technology to yield improved results, there are several things that still need to happen:
- Commercial companies, just like Mainblades, need to keep on pushing their technologies to make it possible for drones to perform as well or better than the human eye. Those technologies need to be certified too, and we rely on companies in the aviation industry to help us along the way.
- Once the above happens, the aviation industry would need to validate, approve and embrace this new tech. Reach out to us to find out how we can work together.
- Drone regulations need to be further advanced so that drones can be integrated with manned aerial vehicles (airplanes). A change is already underway but, naturally, it is taking time as well as national and international effort to refine the necessary rules. After all, the future will require humans, drones and planes to work well together.