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U-blox positioning enables massive drone light show

November 2, 2020  - By
The 10-minute-long drone show included a flying dove with a wingspan of 600 meters, visible from three kilometers away. (Photo: u-blox)

The 10-minute-long drone show included a flying dove with a wingspan of 600 meters, visible from three kilometers away. (Photo: u-blox)

U-blox supplied the high-accuracy technology that made it possible to fly a massive swarm of drones. The simultaneous flight of 2,198 miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) was launched into the night sky over Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Sept. 3.

The 10-minute-long drone show included a flying dove with a wingspan of 600 meters, visible from three kilometers 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 GLONASS and GPS satellite navigation constellations.

The 10-centimeter-wide Geoscan Salute drones were designed 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 create a fluid drone show. Salute drones 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 rebroadcast from a fixed base station. The accuracy gained in this way enables drones to calculate their relative positions to within millimeters, and their absolute positions to within 1 centimeter of the intended position.

Geoscan has been producing drone displays for the past two years, starting with 40 drones flying at once. “The u-blox modules in our Geoscan Salute drones have improved our drones’ positioning accuracies to about one centimeter, and have helped reduce pre-launch preparation time,” said Semen Lapko, head of Drone Show Project, Geoscan. “Drones now move more quickly and accurately, while also operating more efficiently.”

About the Author:


Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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