Advanced Information System Lab
Yang Hyun Jong (Electrical Engineering)
Sometime between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. on September 19, 2020, a suspicious drone was caught flying around an apartment complex in Busan, Korea. The drone seemed to be searching for something and was hovering between apartment units, before stopping and remaining motionless in front of a particular balcony. On this balcony was a nude man and woman engaging in an intimate and private act. The drone, filming this couple, fell suddenly to the ground from an operator error. A resident within the apartment complex witnessed this and reported it to the authorities. Eventually, two men in their 30’s and 40’s respectively were held responsible and sentenced to eight months in prison and KRW 10 million in penalties for filming illegal video content. Such privacy breaches involving drones have been occurring for some time. It all began in the mid 2010’s when drone sales increased, and has remained an issue ever since and is now emerging as a serious social concern.
The Advanced Information Systems Lab (AiS Lab), headed by Professor Yang Hyun Jong at the Department of Electrical Engineering, POSTECH, conducts research to help resolve such social challenges while encouraging the growth of the drone industry. The Lab remedies this issue by focusing on the camera: while it serves the essential role as the ‘eye’ for drones, it is also oftentimes involved in the production of unlawful video content. The Lab aims to intentionally reduce the performance of cameras and develop ‘offset’ technology to help cameras perform their intended function.
Ordinarily, drones use their camera to recognize their surroundings and avoid obstacles. Thus, during flight, it is only natural that the camera is filming while they fly. Certainly not by intention, but the fact that drones are required to film could quite easily result in the infringement of privacy. In fact, any given person simply walking down the street could fall victim to the unintentional filming on the part of a drone without even knowing it, let alone providing consent.
Researchers at the Lab are working to lower the resolution of cameras and instead leverage radio frequency (RF) technology that transmits microwaves at shorter intervals as a way to help drones recognize obstacles. “Aside from cameras, drones have no other components that could possibly lead to privacy breaches”, Professor Yang mentioned and added “Radio frequency microwaves, invisible to the human eye, are capable of recognizing obstacles and thus can play a supporting role for cameras.” The AiS Lab became the world’s first to develop a privacy-preserving AI camera image recognition algorithm and published three relevant papers at the ‘Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR)’, one of the world’s three most prestigious computer vision conferences, and with the US-based Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.
The drone market is poised to only grow in proportion with the expanding drone delivery services that lie at the core of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Walmart, the largest US-based retailer, and Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce company, are eager to advance into the drone delivery market. Last September, the US Federal Aviation Administration officially approved the operation of Amazon’s Prime Air delivery drones. The marketing research firm ‘Facts & Factors’ forecasts that the global drone delivery market will grow from last year’s USD 522 million (nearly KRW 590.1 billion) to USD 6.773 billion (nearly KRW 7.6568 trillion) by 2065.
The key to avoiding drone collisions lies in smooth and reliable communications. Presently, it is possible to safely and simultaneously operate around 100 drones with no risk of collision. Researchers at the Lab are studying drone-to-drone communication and signal processing to brace for the mainstreaming of drone delivery business. “With drones shrinking in size and growing in number, it is virtually impossible to ensure trouble-free communication with the conventional approach”, Professor Yang commented, adding “Our goal is to provide feasible solutions to the issues of privacy infringement and communication and to prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution”.
Head of Lab
LG Cooperative Electronics Engineering Building 406