How cloud computing will make drone-based solutions smarter

Written by Vipul Singh, CEO and Co-Founder of Aereo Formerly Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS)
The first step in solving complex real-world problems is to collect data about those problems. Drones have successfully pioneered this move. Their use in rural development, mining, construction, etc. has been documented. However, processing such huge data is an ongoing challenge. Thus, companies started looking into cloud computing.
India is a diverse country with very diverse topography. If rural areas are to be developed, the Government of India (GOI) will need to create a large database of high-resolution GIS data.

Vipul Singh

While drones can take over the data collection aspect relatively quickly, a bottleneck has been storing and processing that data into usable data sets.

The Government of Israel launched the nationwide SVAMITVA scheme by Survey of India (SOI) in April 2021 to map all rural lands using drones. Land plots are mapped and land owners are provided with a “Register of Rights” through title cards. One of the many reasons for the success of this task is the liberalization of geospatial (GIS) policies. In February 2021, the Israeli government liberalized geospatial data, enabling private organizations to facilitate data processing.

The role of cloud computing in this project is huge. GIS data collected by drones can be directly processed on a cloud platform without prior approvals or authorizations. Cloud computing solves the limitations of processing time, the need for data labs, expensive software licenses, and hardware to view and share the processed data set. Therefore, cloud computing is effective in bringing workflow automation to the otherwise cumbersome land surveying process.

Enable scalability through the cloud
SVAMITVA is a national project spanning about 6.65 lakh villages. Creating the physical infrastructure to handle such a large volume of data is not possible. It is estimated that if all the villages under SVAMITVA were mapped to the map, it would amount to more than 4,000 terabytes of data. Having a decentralized system for storing this data creates a host of problems. First, the cost of storage in terms of physical drives and network access storage (NAS) is prohibitive. In addition, there is always a high risk of data loss and it cannot be shared or used by multiple parties simultaneously.

Cloud computing helps create a centralized system that can be viewed, shared, and analyzed at once from anywhere. It removes any hardware/software limitations and really enhances business intelligence. Traditionally, survey data has no purpose other than to update the land registry. However, geospatial information captured by drones can be used to design water pipe networks, plan rooftop solar projects, design fiber optic network, and efficiently plan wastewater. Thus, cloud computing creates invaluable data sets that have applications in a range of sectors.

Another major hurdle encountered while working with decentralized datasets is security. Apart from losing corruption, physical drives are also more vulnerable to attacks and vulnerabilities. A robust cloud platform ensures that there is a management hierarchy. In addition, it sets a global storage standard that businesses nationwide can adhere to. Thus, the exchange of information becomes streamlined and friction-free.

When you have a central repository that everyone can access in real time, it becomes difficult to misuse the data. Drones are relatively more efficient than manual survey methods. However, without cloud computing, their agility is compromised. For example, if the data of a particular region is lost or has an error, the correction process delays the entire process for months. With cloud integration, that can happen instantly.

Enable business intelligence
Due to its cross-sectoral application, data processed through the cloud becomes a valuable resource. to
Governments and institutions, they can become a vital source of income. As new urban and rural projects are commissioned, these high-resolution datasets are essential to the planning process. It is useful in catering to various government schemes like PM Gram Sadak Yojna, PM Awas Yojna, Bharat FiberNet and many more.

For example, SVAMITVA data combined with DEM layers can help officials plot the optimal route of power lines for rural electrification. Likewise, digital terrain maps can help ascertain natural slopes and help engineers design efficient gravity-assisted sewers.

Cloud computing creates a central repository for GIS data that has the potential to drive innovation. Before cloud processing, data sharing of this kind had software and hardware limitations. However, the cloud offers unified data standards across the country which makes it hassle free to access high quality data. Additionally, using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and image processing, this data can be easily distributed to stakeholders in academia, industry, and science to extract more impactful results at a faster pace.
Besides revamping processing speed, providing unlimited storage space, and accessibility, cloud computing can also help get rid of unnecessary stuff. For example, the SVAMITVA scheme, with the help of drones and cloud processing, will eliminate the need for physical land registry records.

This has a series of benefits that will directly affect the lives of the people living in those areas. Also, the implementation of comprehensive solutions is helping to create thousands of high-skilled jobs in the country and create a cutting-edge drone industry. Therefore, a single geospatial database has cascading benefits that will affect more than 1 billion people and their future generations.

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