Drones + Augmented Reality – Is It The Future?
This article reviews one of the most promising tendencies in drone industry development and how this tendency shows itself in the real life circumstances.
If you consider starting or expanding your drone business, you will find here several ideas that may be the base for your next business challenge.
So! Drones + Augmented Reality = How does it work?
First of all, let us review those elements separately in brief:
Drones – Unless you are living under a rock, you already know what a drone is. ☺ If you track drone news, you will see that as drones become more and more advanced in terms of hardware and accompanying software, the number of areas in which drones are used is expanding.
Augmented reality – Pokémon Go brought this technology to the forefront past summer, 2016. Briefly, augmented reality allows overlapping virtual objects above the images of real objects when seen through your smart device camera. Due to the great possibilities this technology unlocks and to the relative simplicity of technical implementation, augmented reality applications are used more and more in many areas, including printing, education, real-estate, medicine and others. You can read more about it on our page here.
Combining drone with augmented reality can look like the following:
When your drone is flying, you can see the world with its eyes on the screen of your smartphone or management panel or through the special glasses. Afterwards, you can also review pictures and videos shot by a drone on your PC screen. Now, take one step further and imagine you can see not only real objects as the drone sees them, but also some additional images, text or marks over them—just as you can see lines and names of the streets on Google satellite map, for example.
Those virtual objects can appear in response to some “triggers” – special images on real objects recognized by drone software on the fly. Or they can be added in real time by special visual recognition software analyzing the objects seen.
Just imagine what possibilities this combination opens!
This really looks a bit like in science-fiction films where flying machines allow remote operators to see and analyze things at the same time.
Let us review some examples of how this great combination is already currently used:
Just like the example with Google Maps mentioned above, pictures and videos made by a drone with an overlapping map and street names and numbers help rescue teams evaluate damages after disasters to react quickly and precisely. Such maps can be also used for territory inspection, research and for other purposes where knowledge of the ground is necessary.
To make this happen, different drone software providers develop special video players with embedded image layers and whole libraries of image layers that can be integrated with the native drone software through the API.
An interesting example is presented on this video. It shows an augmented reality map recorded by a drone during a flight over a flood area in one of USA states.
Some construction companies already use augmented reality to visualize and showcase future new buildings, and how they would fit the existing urban environment. Such applications are usually web based and can be used any time via a browser with a static map.
Imagine this: you can arrive at the real place where the building of your dreams might be built and you are going to see it as if it was already built! You launch your drone interacting with the software where a 3D model of your building is included, and you can see the future building from different points as the drone flies around!
After such a virtual tour in the real environment, you can make better-informed decisions on the building architecture and location!
Such virtual tours in a real environment will definitely help construction contractors and facilities, where a great deal of detail should be taken into account during the initial planning stage.
To make this possible, it is first necessary to create a 3D model of the building you would like to see on the screen. It is also necessary to create a video taken at the time of your drone flight that will show the 3D image layer overlapping the real scene corresponding to the angle and distance your drone is flying at.
Actually, with the drone in one hand and a library of images in another, you can send your drone any place and overlay library pictures or videos over real images. This way you can see the discrepancies between the real and virtual objects just on your screen in real time.
This is how EasyJet uses drones and augmented reality to inspect their aircrafts in different countries. Earlier engineers had to inspect the aircrafts by taking photos and sending them to the central office in Luton where the central engineering team reviewed shots and drew their conclusions. The company estimates that using drones with augmented reality considerably decreases time necessary for this process, thus saving resources.
Another interesting example of how inspection can be done with drones and AR is a project by the Boeing Company. The company created a system including drones and augmented reality holograms visible in AR headsets to provide an overview of the wildfire on one hand and info on the location of the firefighting teams on the other. The AR headsets also allow interaction between team members just during the emergency situation:
4. Finally, games!
Right before Christmas 2016, Spin Master, an American company, launched an AR drone-racing game using Air Hogs Connect Mission Drone that already won ”Best Game/Toy” award at the Auggie Awards, Augmented World Expo this year.
The concept of the game is quite simple: a gamer pilots the drone over a special mat with visual and spatial tracking to create a 3D augmented reality world. On the screen of his drone management panel (either Android or iOS smartphone/tablet), the gamer can see his drone flying in a virtual 3D world:
In this environment, the gamer can accomplish search and rescue missions with a team of heroes to save the world from alien forces.
And this is not the only game of this kind!
Walkera, a company producing game platforms, has announced release of their own drone model supporting mixed reality gaming. This means you can see virtual objects in the real environment with your drone’s camera.
Three operation modes are provided: racing, battle and collection mode. Each demonstrates a mixed-reality experience by placing virtual items and routes in real-life surroundings.
It is possible to say that augmented reality applications have a wide area of use and great development possibilities when combined with drones.
Due to the technical simplicity, AR applications could become quite widespread on one hand, and ad-hoc developed on the other.
Right now, some AR applications have been developed for a limited number of drone models to use specific drone hardware possibilities. This way, some manufacturers tend to conquer definite niches in the market and to promote their drone products by making them unique and irreplaceable.
But we think that the future wants universal AR applications supported by a wide range of drone models in specific weight categories that can be customizable to meet individual client needs.
Our team has had successful experience in both drone and augmented reality applications and can suggest the most effective and productive technical solution for your ideas and needs.
If you would like to create your own custom drone application—with or without augmented reality–get in touch with us! We will be happy to create the next chapter in the fascinating drone world with you!