As adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) makes the world more “connected,” drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are no exception. We are seeing an increasing number of cloud-connected drones deployed for commercial applications. But what happens when there is an absence of continuous connectivity?

Fortunately, fog computing can step in where wireless or LTE connectivity might fail.

Fog-enabled drones create endless possibilities for commercial use. My colleague Chuck Byers offers a great example in his recent drone delivery use case blog for Open Fog Consortium. But the commercial use of drones plus fog computing doesn’t stop when pizza and beer arrive at your home on a Friday night.  Drones are key to many even more disruptive services. Some of Chuck’s examples include:

  • Enterprise IT and networking services such as extending your Wi-Fi range, delivering extra computing power, or providing short-term storage exactly where needed
  • 4G and 5G cell network restoration
  • Video surveillance of large areas (for example, campuses, military bases, ports, refineries, power plants, and railroads)
  • “Always-on station” for electronic news gathering
  • Health services that deliver emergency equipment, such as defibrillators or epi-pens
  • Even advertising (imagine flying billboards)

One thing all of these have in common is their need for cooperation between sophisticated computational resources on the drone, and even more sophisticated hierarchies of fog-based support intelligence on the ground.

Consider the precision agriculture use case depicted in the following diagram. Many farm fields in rural areas lack backhaul Internet connectivity or the bandwidth to perform full-on cloud operations. In the absence of a fog computing ground station architecture (shown on the right), it might take 48 to 72 hours to get initial feedback on the quality of the data captured from a data-gathering mission. If there is a need to repeat the mission based on data issues, it’s a whole new endeavor and it might be too late. With solar or wind powered intelligent fog ground stations in place, the same mission could be executed quite efficiently, on time and with the highest level of data quality.

I’m not suggesting that fog computing should replace cloud-powered IoT and Internet-connected drones. Rather, there is a great opportunity for them all to work hand-in-hand. Fog computing plays a critical role in many use cases where business impact could be lost in the absence of low-latency, cost-effective and reliable cloud connectivity.  Highly scalable and robust architectures need to support and leverage both of these scenarios. And that’s the beauty of fog computing.

In my keynote address at InterDrone conference on September 6 in Las Vegas, I’ll be outlining some interesting opportunities combining these disruptive technologies – drones and fog.

What are some other business-critical fog computing use cases you can think of?



Biren Gandhi

Head of Drone Business & Distinguished Strategist

Corporate Strategy Office