Category Archives for "Drones at Work"
Once upon a time, drones were the exclusive preserve of covert military developers, where, if mentioned at all, they were usually referred to as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Much later, low-fi versions began to appear on the hobby/enthusiast market, at first tending to excite great interest and public annoyance in equal measure. Fast-forward to the present and we find that the latest generation of these mini unmanned aircraft systems offer major benefits, such as speed, easy access, and economy, which already make them go-to tools in many specialist industries. Now the UK’s emergency services are becoming aware of the inherent potential of UAS deployment, it seems these fixed-wing and multi-rotor machines may soon play a significant role in future emergency management – one major incentive being that saving time generally saves lives too. Drones used by police, fire, and other emergency services are quickly being developed.
For police services, UAS surveillance and reconnaissance is perhaps a natural development of the role already undertaken by police helicopters. So rather than summoning remote aerial assistance, police teams may soon be able to launch and control their own local UAS support for intelligence applications related to crowd control, siege management, monitoring fleeing vehicles, and similar.
Likewise, fire services would surely wish to take advantage of UAS aerial monitoring of larger-scale fires to locate the heart of the blaze, check for survivors or victims, remain in line-of-sight contact with fire-rescue teams, and quickly survey fire damage once a fire had been tackled. In the event of persistent hazardous conditions such as prevail in the aftermath of a gas explosion, or the collapse of a large building, aerial cameras and/or thermal imaging would be a quick and safe means of finding victims without risking further lives, and also establishing the nature and extent of the emergency – and thus the level of response required.
With emergencies involving remote or inhospitable terrain, UAS support would be invaluable for services such as our coastguards or mountain search-and-rescue teams. Again technologies such as remote cameras and thermal imaging would help to rapidly search and pinpoint the location of victims in cliff rescues, those trapped by incoming tides, or rescues at sea where victims may be unconscious or in the water. Similarly, large areas of moorland and other potentially threatening landscapes could be efficiently searched at speed to find outdoor adventurers lost or stranded and in need of assistance.
Ambulance services and other medical-response teams would benefit from UAS capabilities when faced with major disasters where victims are not easily visible, in terrain where access is restricted, or when dealing with air crashes and similar incidents where the victims may well be spread across a wide area.
Emergency services worldwide have also begun to commission or deploy a range of UAS support as outlined below:
– Canadian Police successfully located and rescued an unconscious driver using an infrared camera mounted on a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle);
– Both Germany and Holland have so-called ‘ambulance drones’ capable of rapidly deploying a life-saving defibrillator for those suffering heart attacks in wilderness locations;
– A US-developed UAV is equipped to deliver urgent medical supplies in third-world countries, whilst another UAV development, known as ‘InstantEye’, can ferry a mobile phone to trapped victims thus enabling them to communicate with rescuers.
UAS capability continues to expand at a rapid pace, and new sensory equipment can now assess levels of chemical contamination, recognise the sound of gunfire, and even detect and measure radiation hazards. UAV’s of the future will also become powerful disaster-management tools used, for example, to overfly and map disaster zones to inform decisions about which locations are most in need of support, and also to configure the best routes through the zone which emergency-response vehicles should follow to avoid major obstructions.
The property market is one of the latest sectors to explore the benefits of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) and their expanding commercial applications. In an industry where being ‘first to the market’ is often critical, the speed and ease with which drones/UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) can be deployed for a property survey is a major advantage. Likewise the quality and relevance of the photographic and video material generated, plus the additional interactive options available, make this an impressive marketing tool, both for selling property to clients and for giving agencies using such methods a hi-tech profile and thus a ‘competitive edge’. Marketing property with drones has enabled quicker sales of both commercial and residential properties.
Some types of building may prove difficult to access and photograph by normal means, or the access may be dangerous or otherwise restricted. Such properties might, for example, include historic listed buildings, unusually tall buildings, inaccessible roof structures and similar. In all such circumstances, a UAS survey would provide marketing images and data without the need for extensive, or extended, access permissions. In addition, full-blown traditional surveys of large commercial sites for property-market purposes are costly and time-consuming, and here a UAV not only does the job quickly and well, but also provides a helpful site overview as well as good quality close-up images. And furthermore, a UAV survey is much less likely to interrupt work schedules.
Precise aircraft control alongside the deployment of gyro-stabilised high-resolution camera equipment gives clients the option of full 360-degree, three-axis imaging, and sophisticated camera tilt, zoom and shutter functions allow close, real-time control of the entire process. And where HD video is used to capture information, the ability to pause on demand means that high-quality stills can also be extracted from the resultant footage whenever required. Perhaps the greatest benefit of all is the live videolink relaying aerial images direct to a ground station screen. This interactive facility enables clients to monitor and direct the kind of images the UAV will secure, and all results can be reviewed instantly.
The survey process is very similar when properties are inspected for damage, or as part of a regular maintenance schedule. Once again, the ease with which a UAS system can gain close-up, instant access to roof areas and other hard-to-reach locations beats hauling platforms and towers around the site every time. And because the operation is quick and cheaper than traditional methods, companies are finding that this aspect of building maintenance is starting to look much more affordable
It doesn’t seem long since Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – or ‘drones’ to most novices – were celebrated as a new technology and, in recent months, their presence in the media has been largely negative, being dominated by stories of near-misses with passenger aircraft. Often overshadowed by this coverage, the positive benefits of UAVs in film and television are overlooked, yet they offer cinematographers a far more cost-effective, practical and unobtrusive alternative to traditional methods of obtaining aerial footage. Drones for filming movies are now commonplace among the many methods used to obtain those all important shots.
Ultimate practicality at a fraction of the cost
UAVs can produce the same high-definition aerial and crane shots as traditional filming methods, rendering costly alternatives, such as cranes, jibs and cable cameras, redundant. Consequently, cinematographers can enjoy a variety of benefits, from faster set-up times (typically, UAVs can be ready to fly inside 10 minutes) to less bulky equipment transportations to and from the filming location. Not only does this mean increased productivity, with less emphasis on the physical management of equipment, but much lower costs which, for most film projects, is a triumph worth celebrating.
Jibs, crane and cable cameras have their strengths, but the field of vision from the lens is still restricted, with a limited variety of angles without the inconvenience of repositioning equipment. UAVs offer complete 360° sight, with a change in height, depth and angle all possible with little more than a flick of the wrist, much like the ease of altering the direction of a remote-controlled car. With unsurpassable manoeuvrability, UAVs give filmmakers complete control of their project and the ability to cherry-pick the optimum angle and distance that simply isn’t possible with any other form of aerial or crane photography.
UAVs also offer filmmakers the possibility for venturing safely into inhospitable or dangerous terrain – there’s pretty much nowhere they can’t fly. From erupting volcanoes to the rock face nesting sites of sea birds, locations once accessible only by manned helicopter – with the associated costs and environmental damage – are now easily reached by cheaper, quieter and more cost-effective unmanned alternatives. Put simply, UAVs can travel just about anywhere in the world, transportable in hand luggage, and are able to send high-definition footage wirelessly to a mobile device close by. For cinematographers and documentary makers, this represents exciting potential to move filmmaking onto a new level.
For amateur cinematographers and Hollywood directors alike, UAVs are creating a tsunami in filmmaking techniques, expanding opportunities for creative and factual filmmaking to levels never experienced before.