U-Blox enables record-breaking drone display

  • November 3, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Swiss firm U-Blox supplied the high-accuracy technology that made it possible to fly the world’s largest swarm of drones. The record-breaking 2198 miniature UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were launched simultaneously into the night sky over Saint Petersburg, Russia, in September.

The ten-minute long drone show included a flying dove with a wingspan of 600 metres, which was visible from three kilometres away.

Geoscan, which built and programmed the drones and ran the display, chose U-Blox positioning technology for its combination of accuracy, reliability, performance and ability to access positional data from both the Glonaa and GPS satellite navigation constellations.

The Geoscan Salute drones, which are just 10cm across, were designed exclusively for use in group flights and drone shows. The drones use U-Blox Neo-M8P high precision GNSS modules to provide the positioning data to ensure they can be placed in the sky with a high degree of accuracy. This makes them less likely to collide with each other and enables them to be moved more quickly and efficiently.

The result is a more fluid drone show, in which the improved positional accuracy of each drone contributes to a better overall display and contiguous figure forms. Salute drones can also return to their base stations automatically at the end of a show.

The Neo-M8P module implements a real-time kinematic (RTK) approach that improves positional accuracy by comparing the phase of a signal being broadcast from a positioning satellite with that of the same signal that has been received and re-broadcast from a fixed base station. The accuracy gained in this way enables drones to calculate their relative positions to within millimetres, and their absolute positions to within one centimetre of the intended position.

Semen Lapko, head of Geoscan’s drone show project, said: “The U-Blox modules in our Geoscan Salute drones have improved our drones’ positioning accuracies to about one centimetre, and have helped reduce pre-launch preparation time. Drones now move more quickly and accurately, while also operating more efficiently.”

Russian company Geoscan has been producing drone displays for the past two years, starting with just 40 drones flying at once.

With headquarters in Thalwil, Switzerland, U-Blox has offices in Europe, Asia and the USA.