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How Will Cloud Computing Make Drone-Based Solutions Smarter

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By Vipul Singh, CEO, and Co-founder, Aereo formerly Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS)
The first step in solving complex real-world problems is gathering data about those problems. Drones have successfully pioneered this step. Their use in rural development, mining, construction, etc. is well documented. However, processing such voluminous data is a constant challenge. Thus, enterprises have started looking at cloud computing.
India is a diverse country with an extremely varied 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 undertake the data collection aspect at a relatively fast speed, the bottleneck has been storing and processing this data into usable datasets.

GOI launched the SVAMITVA scheme nationwide with the Survey of India (SOI) in April 2021 to map all rural lands using drones. Land parcels are being mapped and landowners are provided with a ‘Record of Rights’ through property cards. One of the many reasons for the success of this mission is the liberalisation of geospatial (GIS) policies. In February 2021, GOI liberalised geospatial data, enabling private organisations to facilitate data processing.

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

Enabling Scalability Through Cloud
SVAMITVA is a nationwide project spanning around 6.65 lakh villages. Setting up the physical infrastructure to handle such a large volume of data is not feasible. Estimates suggest that if all the villages under SVAMITVA are mapped, it would amount to over 4,000 TB worth of data. Having a decentralised system to store this data creates an array of problems. Firstly, the storage cost in terms of physical drives and Network Access Storage (NAS) is steep. Additionally, there’s always a high risk of data loss and it cannot be shared or used by multiple parties at once.

Cloud computing helps create a centralised system that can be viewed, shared, and analyzed at once from anywhere. It removes any hardware/software limitations and truly empowers business intelligence. Conventionally, survey data has no purpose other than land record updating. However, drone-captured geospatial information can be used to design water pipeline networks, plan rooftop solar projects, design a fibernet network, and efficient sewage planning. Thus, cloud computing creates invaluable datasets that have applications in a range of sectors.

Another major roadblock faced while working with decentralised datasets is security. Apart from corruption loss, physical drives are more susceptible to attacks and security lapses. Having a robust cloud platform ensures there’s a hierarchy of management. Additionally, it sets a global storage standard that can be adhered to by enterprises nationwide. Thus, the exchange of information becomes streamlined and frictionless.

When you have a centralised repository that is accessible to everyone in real-time, it becomes harder to misuse the data. Drones are comparatively more efficient than manual survey methods. However, without cloud computing, their agility is compromised. For example, if the data of a mapped area is lost or has an error, the rectification process delays the entire operation by months. With cloud integration, it can happen instantaneously.

Empowering Business Intelligence
Due to its multi-sector application, cloud-processed data becomes a valuable resource. For
governments and enterprises, it can become a viable source of revenue. As new urban and rural projects are commissioned, these high-resolution datasets are crucial for the planning process. It is useful in satisfying several government schemes such as PM Gram Sadak Yojna, PM Awas Yojna, Bharat FiberNet, and many more.

For instance, SVAMITVA data along with DEM layers can help officials chart out the most optimum route of power lines for rural electrification. Similarly, digital terrain maps can help ascertain the natural slopes and assist engineers in designing efficient gravity-aided sewage networks.

Cloud computing creates a centralised repository of GIS data which has the potential to drive innovation. Prior to cloud processing, data sharing of this kind had software and hardware limitations. However, the cloud brings forth unified data standards across the country making it hassle-free to access high-quality data. Additionally, using AI, ML, and image processing, this data can be easily distributed to stakeholders in academia, industry, and scientific communities to extract more impactful outcomes at a faster pace.
Along with revamping processing speed, and providing unlimited storage, and accessibility, cloud computing can also help weed out unnecessary elements. For example, the SVAMITVA scheme, with the help of drones and cloud processing will eliminate the need for physical land record registers.

This has a chain of benefits that will directly impact the lives of people living in those areas. Also, implementing end-to-end solutions is helping create thousands of high-skilled jobs in the country and carving a cutting-edge drone industry. Therefore, a singular geospatial database has cascading benefits that will influence more than 1 billion people and their future generations.

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