Irish drones that make life difficult for drug smugglers – The Irish Times

Ireland has a 3,171 km coastline, vast offshore areas and small naval services, and you may find it difficult to prevent the smuggling of illegal drugs and smuggled goods into the EU. However, new autonomous drone technology developed in Ireland can make the lives of smugglers much more difficult.

The Defense Forces have worked with scientists to develop a new drone that can guard the huge Irish offshore even in dire weather. The Guard Project, led by Cork’s Tyndall National Institute, received € 7.6 million from the government’s Disruptive Innovation Fund to build a world-leading autonomous drone that better targets smugglers.

“Existing drones are expensive, difficult to operate, unreliable, and incurred significant losses when operated in harsh weather conditions,” said Tyndall’s director of wireless communications laboratories, leading Guard’s research efforts. One Professor Holger Claussen said.

He says the initiative could create 500 jobs in the future and position Ireland as a front runner in autonomous drone technology.

Ireland is considered the easiest gateway to the EU by smugglers, with hundreds of remote bays and coves. Experts estimate that less than 10% of the smuggled goods and illegal drugs that come here are blocked by the responsible authorities (Defense Forces and Tax Administration) using the ship and helicopter.

Ships at sea can be detected by transponders, but ships that do not want to be located often turn off the transponder. Ireland is part of the EU-funded Maritime Analysis and Operations Center (MAOC), which consists of France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom, combining resources to identify and transmit suspicious vessels. To do. Ships by air or ship for investigation.

The Irish Navy simply does not have enough ships and helicopters to do its job, and perhaps far more ships cannot provide the necessary smugglers with flexible response. Drone technology is an obvious solution, but the drones currently on the market cannot operate in the harsh conditions of Irish offshore, require a high degree of manual operation, and communication systems are unreliable. Based on satellite links.

Guard researchers believe that the new Irish-made high-tech autonomous drone can do what it takes to stop smugglers. UCD and UL scientists, as well as three Irish SMEs, are also involved. A-techSYN, producer of unmanned aerial vehicles (Shannon). VRAI (Dublin), a provider of virtual reality simulation training, and WAZP 3D (Trarry), a 3D printing company.

Irish drones are about 3 meters long and have a wingspan of 5 meters. It is capable of vertical takeoff and landing similar to the British Harrier Jump Jet, which was developed in the 1960s and was abolished in 2003, and behaves like a small airplane when flying in the air. Included are a camera with a gimbal that provides stability, and infrared and optical sensors. All of these are linked to software on the ground.

The drone will be equipped with AI that enables video analysis of the study area, beyond the line-of-sight range of hundreds of kilometers, improving communication connections and reducing the delay of the signal returning to the operator.

The plan is for the drone currently in flight test to launch and land from an existing Irish naval vessel during operation. Innovative new crafts are expected to provide more value for Ireland’s anti-smuggling. “New innovations will enable the Defense Forces to function smarter while protecting the coastline,” said Sean Clancy, Chief of Staff of the Irish Defense Forces.

The dangerous situation off the coast of Ireland is considered the perfect testbed by researchers for testing drones. The global market for autonomous drones is expected to grow to $ 45 billion by 2025 and has many uses in fisheries, agriculture, energy, search and rescue, and military surveillance. We hope that companies associated with Ireland will benefit.

“Guard allows Irish SMEs to create this technology,” says Claussen. “They demonstrate it with the Irish Navy for drug arrest, but the technology we develop is really widely applicable to many civilian use cases.”

“As a result, Irish companies are hoping to create more jobs in Ireland and make Ireland a leader in autonomous drones,” says Klausen.

The Irish Navy has to guard vast offshore and coastlines with only nine ships, and it is virtually impossible to prevent most illicit drugs from entering Ireland, he says. “What we are doing in this project is to create a fully autonomous drone that can operate in harsh weather conditions over a range of 800 km. It will be able to automatically create flight plans and obtain operational permits in civilian airspace. , It will be easier to interact with the created data. “

Researchers at Tyndall are building new communication networks for drones based on millimeter wavelengths and frequencies. This allows drones to achieve very high data transfer rates and integrate with multiple cellular networks at the same time. This reduces latency and allows remote control of the drone.

Existing cellular networks aim to provide coverage on the ground rather than in the air, so coverage can be unstable in the air (if the drone is flying). This project is developing ways to combine multiple cellular networks to fill gaps and reduce latency.

We are also working on new antenna technology and optical lenses printed by 3D printing company WAZP. This will allow the drone to operate on 5G and the new Extreme Networks.

The big goal is to allow one or two people to operate many new drones, reducing manual operation time and cost. The digital representation of the Irish coastline has been created by VRAI to ease the lives of operators.

Another challenge is to develop a way to safely launch a drone and land it on a platform that moves at sea. Researchers are also investigating how to operate the drone beyond the operator’s field of view to obtain an automatic flight permit.

UCD, on the other hand, focuses on creating algorithms that facilitate the automatic analysis of drone image data. “For example, if the drone identifies a ship that isn’t visible on the radar, it will automatically calculate the flight path to investigate it, steer the camera, and analyze the images taken,” says Klausen. ..

This means that Navy services can quickly evaluate drone data and determine which vessels need further investigation by the vessel. “With multiple drones, you can automatically explore a large area,” says Klausen.

“As you can imagine, the weather conditions in Ireland are very harsh, so it’s a very interesting place to do this kind of innovation,” said Carloweb, Senior Strategic Business Development Executive, Tindall National Institute. The star says. “If it works here, it works almost everywhere.

“Another point is that above 1 million euros per drone, getting lost in the sea can be exorbitant,” says Webster. “The cost of these drones is around € 400,000, and in some cases € 200,000. This is more acceptable as it is very unlikely that the drone will be recovered when it sinks into the sea.”


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