Wings for the Internet of Things
Autonomy for drones, vehicles and robots, the Internet of Things, plus the new mobile network standard 5G: this is the world, London-based start-up Unmanned Life, which has already received numerous awards for its innovations, is setting out for.
Autonomous Solutions for the Air Cargo Industry
New technologies based on autonomy are reaching maturity and bringing flexibility, capacity enhancement and adaptability to the logistics industry providing a fluctuating demand that no other automation technology was providing before, and at a much lower cost. The potential of using autonomous mobile robots to conduct mailbags in the air cargo industry sorting is significant, replacing existing fix structures such as conveyor belts with modular, on-demand and flexible solutions, providing more cost-efficient automation that can be deployed faster and anywhere.
The acceptance of autonomous robots as a game-changer to increase efficiency of operations is growing rapidly. Acoording to Nicholas Zylberglajt, co-founder and COO of Unmanned Life, the market for autonomous mobile robots is booming and it is expected to grow over 14% between 2017 and 2024 anually. In terms of volume, the demand for autonomous robots is expected to reach more than 115,400 units by 2024 at a CAGR of around 13% during the forecast period. In warehouse operations, it is expected there will be 51,140 units by 2024.
Unmanned Life’s Autonomy-as-a-Service Software platform enables a fleet of autonomous robots to provide an automated sorting centre environment. These robots intelligently avoid obstacles and other robots, transfer packages from unsorted input to sorted output directions and ultimately deliver the complete scalable sorting centre solution. Earlier estimations show that a flexible and modular automation as enabled by the Unmanned Life Software platform reduces heavily capital investments, reduces the time for deployment and therefore increases dramatically the return on investment of such technology.
With its ‘Autonomy-as-a-Service’ architecture, the company, founded in 2015, claims to be the first to deploy a whole fleet of autonomously operating drones capable of performing a variety of complex functions at the same time. Unmanned Life thus allows users to operate and manage their autonomous fleets on-demand and cost-effectively via a single interface. Sounds complex? It is. “Our platform combines autonomous industry solutions with business information systems. For example, our customers can use it to control drones inside buildings or outdoors, with or without GPS, via Wi-Fi, 4G LTE or 5G mobile standards,” says Nicholas Zylberglajt. “We can thus help companies with little experience deploy fully autonomous drone swarms or vehicle fleets, something they otherwise would not be capable of doing.”
Unmanned Life combines all autonomy solutions in a single system
The COO refers to the Internet of Things (IoT) as the purpose. The offer includes drones for transportation from web shops, for telephone orders in the retail trade or for delivering food and drinks from restaurants; after all: “Autonomous postal and shipping systems can dramatically accelerate transportation times while reducing hazardous work, such as in industries, which often involves injuries.” Although the drone idea is not new, Unmanned Life is taking an extremely innovative approach: by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), the platform combines a variety of autonomy solutions into a single integrated system, in real-time and without the need for pilots or human intervention. “AI provides the basics required for autonomous operation,” explains Zylberglajt. “These range from the evaluation of three-dimensional mapping for navigation to precise control, with AI using innovative sensor functions for collision avoidance and person recognition.” The platform does not only control the drones or vehicles themselves, but is also capable of implementing various application-specific solutions, such as actuating grippers.
Successful premiere: in the City of London, British Telecom, Verizon, King’s College, Ericsson and Unmanned Life jointly demonstrated the autonomous control of a drone fleet. The aircraft were launched by Verizon from the US and then taken over by BT in a 5G network section.
Nicholas Zylberglajt, co-founder and COO of Unmanned Life
During a live demo in London at the end of February 2018, Unmanned Life showed that the complex theory already works in practice: with the telecommunications groups British Telecom from the United Kingdom, Verizon from the US, Swedish technology company Ericsson and King’s College in London, the start-up demonstrated how its platform allows drones to be controlled from two continents via a transatlantic 5G connection – “that was truly a worldwide premiere,” says Zylberglajt. The partner companies simulated how emergency teams from different countries can quickly and remotely deploy and control their drone fleets in a far-away disaster area. To do so, they took emergency cases and rescue equipment to hard-to-reach areas and conducted search missions using HD image capture.
“This live demo has hopefully contributed to advancing the development the IoT with the help of the new 5G mobile standard,” said Zylberglajt. “We demonstrated that end users, enterprise customers, mobile network operators, and IoT platform providers can generate new 5G business models, allowing quick monetization of the high investments involved.” Even though he still expects many more challenges, Zylberglajt is convinced: “Although the new autonomous applications place high and very different demands on the functioning of the 5G networks, only these networks will be capable of handling future IoT services reliably and securely.”
Unmanned Lifeis the brand name of Unmanned Systems Ltd, a European company headquartered in the United Kingdom since 2015. Their head office is in London, their research laboratory in Brussels and their US office in San Francisco. The start-up also has representative offices in Paris and Mumbai.
„UK National Technology Award 2018“
As part of the National Technology Awards at the beginning of 2018, FS Tech, a major UK technology magazine distinguished Unmanned Life with the “Best Transport Technology of the Year” award. By doing so, the jury of investors, journalists and technology experts honored the young company’s technology development. At the awards ceremony, the jury highlighted the ‘Autonomy-as-a-Service’ solution in particular, referring to it as “a building block even for larger companies that want to acquire new autonomous technologies, but are still rather hesitant”.
“Disruptive Innovation Award 2017“
The United Kingdom’s Deep Tech Industry Alliance, a coalition of key players in the fields of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and Big Data, gave Unmanned Life the “UK’s Best Disruptive Innovation of 2017” award at the end of January 2018. The award recognizes the most important digital innovations of the year as well as people and companies from across the UK and Ireland. Only companies that can demonstrate significant business success thanks to their innovations are eligible. The award was presented by Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC’s technology correspondent.
“Best Start-up Innovation of the Year 2017“
Unmanned Life received this award at the Post-Expo 2017 trade fair in Switzerland. It was awarded by the Postal Innovation Platform, an organization of the United Nations’ Universal Postal Union, for solving urgent logistical requirements in e-commerce. The jury was made up of top players in the postal and logistics world, including Elmar Toime, President of the Postea Group and member of DHL’s supervisory board; Dieter Bambauer, member of Swiss Post’s executive board and Head of PostLogistics; Nick Pendleton, Director of Strategy & Innovation of the Royal Mail Group and CEO Hugues Hansen of Start’inPost, the start-up accelerator of La Poste in France.
Text by Behrend Oldenburg
Graphics and photos: Unmanned Systems Ltd