If you ask the question ‘What are drones used for?’ the first use that usually springs to mind is aerial photography, but this is just one of a growing number of ways in which UAV can work for us. UAV are by definition aircraft and it is the payload that these aircraft carry that determines how they can be used. It is the fact that the payload can be changed to suit the task that makes them so versatile. They are the right tool for the job when it comes to the dull, dirty, or dangerous work, but they are also very useful artists, researchers, journalists and many other professionals.
Aerial Photography – Aerial photography is by far the most popular use of UAV and it can involve a small, hobby drone taking snapshots in the local park, heavy octocopters taking stills for stock images, to MALE or HALE UAV flying over land and oceans.
HD Video Cinematography – Larger, heavier UAV (hexacopters and octocopters) carry larger and heavier payloads, and in the case of cameras that means better quality. If you want to record film footage suitable for TV broadcast or films then you’ll be using of these.
Inspections Surveys – Factory and residential roofs, plant infrastructure, chimneys (commercial and domestic) – the list goes on. If you want to see what’s up there and don’t want to go to the time, effort, and expense of putting up scaffolding, then send up a drone.
LIDAR – Light Detection and Ranging. Data is collected using aircraft (manned or unmanned) and that data is then used by scientists and mapping companies to more accurately chart shorelines, elevations, and other natural or man made structures.
3D Modeling – of buildings, structures, landscapes etc.
Photogrammetry – using aerial photography to determine exact distance measurements
Journalism – filming and photography to capture local, regional, national, and international news
Construction & Architecture – using drones to inspect and monitor building projects
Estate Agents – aerial photos and videos give a marketing advantage to estate agents
Tourist Destinations – showcase a tourist destination, holiday property rental, or resort area using an aerial tour
Advertising & Marketing – there are too many products and services to list, but aerial filming is used to great effect
360ºPanoramas – take a series of photos to stitch together, or just film as the drone slowly rotates
Orthomosaics – create accurate top-down views of locations with aerial photography and processing software
NIR NDVI – monitor crops and flora, typically with fixed wing drones
Thermography – inspect rooftops, piping, and solar panels with thermal imaging cameras
Police – look for fleeing criminals with thermal imaging, photograph crimes scenes from the air
SAR – search for missing persons, livestock, or pets with real time video or thermal imaging cameras
Magnetometry – carry out geophysical surveys, collect data for processing
Live HD Broadcasting – with a suitably large multirotor and ancillary equipment on the ground you can steam live footage of news, sports, and events.
Marine – filming boats and yachts, or dispatching lifebelts to swimmers in trouble, both at sea or just offshore
Other – what have we missed? Tell us in the comments section below.