Tokyo, March 29- Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. (“TEPCO” Tokyo, Japan), Zenrin Co. Ltd. (“ZENRIN” Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka) reached a basic agreement to collaborate on a “Drone highway plan”1) that supports the safe flight of drones by combining their proprietary infrastructure data, including equipment and map information. The domestic drone business is expected to expand into several fields including logistics, disaster response, and security in addition to already established fields such as aerial photography/videography, pesticide spraying and surveying by realizing long-range and automated flight in urban areas with the development of laws and improvement of drone performance. The market size is expected to exceed 100 billion yen in 20202).
To date, numerous technical issues proved to be obstacles in safe flight, such as accurately recognizing the position and height of structures in the flight area, battery power for mid- and long-range flight, and flight control to avoid collision with other drones.
TEPCO and ZENRIN are addressing these challenges by creating a “Drone highway plan” in Fiscal Year 2019 through combining TEPCO’s infrastructure data including substations, transmission line towers, power poles, and overhead power lines with ZENRIN’s “3D map of the sky” under development.
The 4-stage plan is as follows:
(1)Build 3D database of infrastructure including transmission line towers and power lines that may obstruct drone flight
(2)Co-develop technology that guides drones to checkpoints employing 3D database of infrastructure equipment
(3)Realization of “Drone highway”, the airspace supporting safe, automated mid-and long-range flight by avoiding collision with power equipment and utilizing the ground-based power network as a “visible land mark from the sky”
(4)“Drone ports” for charging, inspection, maintenance, and repair will be built on the “Drone highway”
The companies will undertake other projects such as GPS position correction and weather information, which are widely available.
1) Airspace and flight path for drones only
2) Drone Business Research Report 2017, Impress Research Institute