The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term given to the collection of physical objects and smart devices that transfer and exchange data or are controlled over the Internet. The subset of these devices used for industrial purposes is often referred to as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), drones and other unmanned systems can all be part of the IoT, and wireless connectivity is usually provided by Wi-Fi, radio, or cellular networks such as 3G, 4G and 5G.
Wi-Fi provides high data rates but is extremely limited in range compared to other radio technologies.
Cellular networks provide broadband communications with sufficient bandwidth for streaming video, but 3G, 4G and 5G connectivity takes a lot of power and may not be feasible for very small drones. It is however ideal for fleet telematics and tracking for autonomous cars and other land vehicles.
Drones and robots connected to the IoT can act as mobile wireless sensors, gathering data and sending it back via the internet. They can also use internet connectivity to offload tasks such as image classification, data processing and target tracking to cloud-based servers. These tasks are often highly processing-intensive, and offloading them to the cloud allows drone designers to lower the SWaP (size, weight and power) footprint of the vehicle.
IoT-connected drones and autonomous vehicles have been used for a wide variety of applications. Industrial drones used for commercial purposes such as powerline and wind turbine inspection, and can also be a part of the maintenance of the IoT wireless network itself, inspecting towers and other IoT sensors.
Both aerial and ground robots with internet of things connectivity are widely used in precision agriculture. Agritech drones can capture photos and multispectral images of crops to provide instant information on plant health, soil condition and pest prevalence. UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles) such as autonomous tractors can be used to perform tasks such as crop watering, seed planting and pesticide spraying.