High Accuracy Self-Navigation of Drones in Indoor Environments

Idaho National Laboratory Background
Significant research has taken place in the drone industry for self-navigation technologies. However, this research has historically been focused on outdoor usage. These conventional drones rely on a strong GPS signal and a compass for successful navigation outside. These features give an outdoor drone vital position and heading information. However, both systems are unreliable (and sometimes inoperative) inside industrial facilities and similar environments without GPS availability. Commercial drones have not yet been optimized for indoor autonomous navigation. This technology was developed with nuclear power plants in mind but is a universal indoor self-navigation drone technology.
Technology Overview
The concept of this effort is to leverage the drone camera to scan Quick Response codes (QR codes), or bar codes set at specific locations around the plant to guide the drone through a desired route. Utilizing QR codes posted at intervals throughout a plant, it is possible for a drone to know its physical location relative to these codes. Being able to process an image sent from the drone and get the position of the drone relative to the QR code will allow the drone to make decisions on how it moves, thus allowing it to navigate an indoor GPS-denied environment. As a result, the drone can navigate an area using just the onboard camera
Stage of Development
TRL 2. This technology is in early-stage concept phase.
Benefits

Self-navigation of drones in GPS-denied indoor environments.
Able to be deployed to any commercially available drone.
More cost-effective than other approaches like LiDAR and SLAM

Applications
Self-navigation of drones in GPS-denied indoor environments.
Opportunity
Idaho National Laboratory (INL), managed and operated by Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC (BEA), is offering the opportunity to enter into a license and/or collaborative research agreement to commercialize this self-navigating drone technology. This technology transfer opportunity is part of a dedicated effort to convert government-funded research into job opportunities, businesses and ultimately an improved way of life for the American people.
INL is seeking to license the above intellectual property to a company with a demonstrated ability to bring such inventions to the market. Exclusive rights in defined fields of use may be available. Added value is placed on relationships with small businesses, start-up companies, and general entrepreneurship opportunities.

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