Coolest drone projects at big enterprise IT companies

Cisco, AT&T, IBM and Microsoft all have their hands in drones

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High flying ideas

Drone-related projects by enterprise IT and networking vendors are all over the map, which isn’t surprising since unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are so useful for flying from here to there. Here’s a whirlwind tour of commercial drone-related projects discussed publicly by familiar enterprise IT and networking vendors.

RELATED: Commercial drones gaining altitude with enterprise IT vendors

AT&T & Intel: LTE connectivity

AT&T & Intel: LTE connectivity

These two vendors said during Mobile World Congress in February that they have joined forces to test how UAVs equipped with Intel modems and crash avoidance technology work over AT&T’s LTE network, “a network designed to connect devices on the ground.” They gave a sneak preview at the Intel Drone Zone during the annual Barcelona wireless confab. AT&T’s Internet of Things and Foundry teams are working with Intel to explore the benefits of using LTE to support video streaming, telematics transmission and flight information sharing, especially beyond line of sight, while accounting for signal interference and altitude into the hundreds of feet. As AT&T looks to exploit its wireless infrastructure to support the Internet of Things, drones are naturally a part of that equation.

 

Microsoft: Project Premonition

Microsoft: Project Premonition

Microsoft Research worked with Johns Hopkins, University of Pittsburgh and St. George’s University researchers in Grenada to use drone-enabled mosquito traps to capture the bugs and then conduct cloud-based gene sequencing analysis to sniff out possible emerging infectious diseases. The vision is to create a worldwide system. Among Microsoft’s contributions were safeguarding the drones from hackers and ensuring that the drone navigation software would work.

 

IBM: Bluemix and Quadroccino

IBM: Bluemix and Quadroccino

IBM’s Bluemix enables fast and secure cloud apps development, including for the Internet of Things…which includes drones. Among the apps that have been demonstrated: driving a drone with voice commands and then analyzing pictures taken from the air. And, delivering coffee via a drone.

 

IBM Research: Ping Pong

IBM Research: Ping Pong

One more from IBM. Hard to resist a drone playing ping pong. But the T.J. Watson Research Center’s drone competition system isn’t all fun and games: computer vision, energy-efficient computation, object tracking, motion dynamics are all being explored here. IBM says one goal is to have the drone carry out its applications regardless of connectivity quality.

 

Verizon: Helping NASA track drones

Verizon: Helping NASA track drones

Verizon is among the outfits, also including startups like Airware and universities such as San Jose State, helping NASA come up with a way for the FAA to monitor, manage and safeguard the increasingly drone-filled skies. Among Verizon’s contributions: Figuring out if cell towers can play a role in communications and surveillance strategies involving commercial and civilian drones. NASA in April just pulled off its most complex drone traffic management test to date.

 

Cisco & Dimension Data: Rhino rescuers

Cisco & Dimension Data: Rhino rescuers

These vendors are partnering to protect Rhinos from poachers in a South African game reserve in part by using drones with infrared cameras to keep an eye on suspicious activity. The companies have also built a secure network, including WiFi hotspots, to conduct surveillance and analyze data. (RELATED: Meet Cisco's go-to guy on commercial drones)

Qualcomm: Startup central

Qualcomm: Startup central

Qualcomm, which is building Snapdragon processors to power drones and other robotic devices, invited 10 startups to hunker down at its San Diego campus for a few months last year – and tossed $1 million-plus into the mix -- to accelerate their businesses. Qualcomm has a venture arm that has been busy investing in this field as well.