Electrical Engineer, Cyber Security (purple hat), Drones & Robotics, Professor, And an entrepreneur

IndroPilot: Drone Over Cellular 5G Platform

Tamimi February 17, 2023 [Professional] #drone #robots #Drone Delivery #platform #indropilot #BVLOS #UAV #5G #Cellular #Autonomy #ground station

๐ŸšงNote: This article is in progress, some minor future edits might be added, as well as some extra media where is needed.๐Ÿšง

Platfrom In Action

Img1: The platform (Indropilot) in action


InDroPilot is the Next-Generation modular Platform enables 5G cellular connectivity on drones/UAV/RPAS for BVLOS Ops, completely developed from the ground up, InDroPilot emphasizes on modularity, expandability, and reliability, while being user-friendly with the minimum configurations needed to be up in the air!

InDroPilot was developed during the project NERDs (Refer to the article about NERDs project for more details) and used/tested successfully in several major projects with different clients like AED Drone Delivery over cellular 5G Project and Remote photogrammetry survey over cellular 5G in Brazil



Major Components

InDroPilot is an eco-system platform that consists of three major components:

Platfrom components
Platfrom components

Img2/3: Platform components with in the platform

High-Level Features

Platform Suites

Img4: The platform different suites to fit the specific requirements

Platfrom Modules

Img5: Different modules within the platform

Platform Real Life Tests ๐Ÿš€

BVLOS test mission from Vancouver, BC, Canada, Flying a drone Located in Ottawa, ON, Canada

This was an internal company flight test, the pilot was located in Vancouver, BC and the drone was located in Ottawa, ON. The pilot was connected to his home internet, and using the a PS5 controller to fly the drone over the internet utilizing the platform. The test was successful, and marked a major milestone for the development of the platform and the coming BVLOS missions carried over 5G/LTE cellular networks.


Fig1: BC to ON drone BVLOS Flight Test

BVLOS test mission from Plano, Texas, United States, Flying a drone Located in Ottawa, ON, Canada

This was a demonstration of the platform for Ericson, Ericsson was interested in such platform after the major success we had in the project NERDs (Refer to the article about NERDs project for more details), the demo was requested by senior managemts at ericcson in the United States. The pilot was located in Plano, Texas and the drone was located in Ottawa, the test conducted two approaches, one is the manual way by flying with a PS5 controller, the other one was fully autonomous where the drone launch, fly, execute the mission, and then land while having full telemetry and video feed over 5G cellular network. The test was successful, and it was the first BVLOS across north America.


Fig2: US to CAN drone BVLOS Flight Test

BVLOS test mission from Australia, Flying a drone Located in Ottawa, ON, Canada

This test was part of the CANSEC (Refer to the article about CANSEC for more details), the pilot was was located in Australia, and the drone was located in Ottawa, ON. The pilot had full telemtry and video feed for that test. The test was successful, and was the first intercontinental BVLOS mission!


Fig3: AUS to CAN drone BVLOS Flight Test

Platform Architecture

The platfrom architecture followed the block diagram below in general, each big block is one of the three major components listed above, one on board, one at the cloud, and one at the ground station,

Indropilot Architecture

Fig4: Platform Architecture - open the image in a new tab to zoom in

Additionally, the generic block diagram of the system can be found below, generic because it is customizable per the project and requirment, the one below was used in the AED Drone Delivery over cellular 5G Project.

Indropilot hardware block diagrams

Fig5: Platform hardware block diagrams

Platform User Interface (UI)

Although the user interface was designed to be simple and lightweight rather than a fully fledged UI due to resources constraints from limited on-board hardware, it was fully functional for all the tasks needed top be done before or during the flight, as well as it was stable, lightweight, and self-healing as in if it crashed for any reason, it will automatically restart without affecting the core backend/embedded modules that are responsible for drone communication and flight.

This UI run on the on-board computer (SBC) to manage the agent over the internet, and not to be confused with the cloud interface as well as the ground station interface.

Some screenshots of the UI can be found below:

Indropilot UI Indropilot UI Indropilot UI Indropilot UI Indropilot UI Indropilot UI Indropilot UI

Fig6: Some of the platform on-board UI

Platform Installation

The on-board installation part is a breeze, a simple interactive script will take care of the whole installation process with all the dependencies and compatibility checks.

Indropilot Installation Indropilot Installation

Fig7: Platform installation


Once the platform is installed on the drone, linked and configured, the pilot can fly the drone over the internet from anywhere in the world with low latency, having full telemetry and Command and Control, video feeds, and other modules in real time, additionally, the pilot can fly the drone in the manual mode (using game controller - seen below) or in the autonomous mode.

vid1: Testing of the platform capability to fly the drone using a joystick (PS5 in here), and as you can see, my colleague flying it over the internet (5G) as if it he was flying with normal RC link/controller!

Final Thoughts and future plans

The platform (Named Indropilot), despite being proven and reliable, it is only the beginning of a promising fully fledged platform with coming new features and enhancements, like extra modules, support for the UGV and qUGV (ROS based), and a fully featured fleet management online platform, stay tuned!

Indropilot Robots Indropilot Robots

Fig6/7: Future robots to be included in the platform

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