Drone technology is exploding on the international scene these days. The number of potential uses to this technology are practically infinite. The only thing that really slows down drone expansion is the legal concerns within each country, but once these are taken care of, there are numerous commercial uses of drones that can be of benefit to how we work and collect data. Here are a few examples of just how useful the technology can be even outside of the military.
Aerial Photography Drones
One use for drones that is already being exploited is in the making of films and TV programmers. There are a lot of great shots that can be hard to get with just cranes, airplanes, or helicopters, and with less expense. Drones can get far above the ground and they can get great stable shots that sweep over landscape. Helicopters have the downside of being way too loud to get shots that have any kind of sound in them. They are also large enough that only certain shots can be taken in this way. But with drones, they are small, agile, and quiet. They can get into areas large helicopters have to avoid like narrow valleys. This makes them ideal for capturing film. Aerial photography using UAS is one of the main commercial uses of drones that is likely to expand rapidly.
Home Delivery Drones
This particular use of UAV drones is still mostly in the future. The reason for this though, is more laws and less for technological reasons. For example, Amazon recently released their planes to create a program called Amazon Prime Air. This program will be able to deliver any object that weighs under a few pounds to people living within a certain range of the warehouse in 30 minutes using drones. The technology is already in place for drones to do this automatically. The drones depicted are octocopers, with 8 blades at key points around a metal frame. Underneath is a simple plastic clip that holds on to an orange plastic container that will have the product in it. The drones can fly high above the ground, making them less likely to interfere with anything on the ground, including power lines. They can then land either near someone’s house or in pre-approved landing areas before flying back to base. The site estimates that this could actually hit the public in another 5 years or so, maybe even sooner. The main thing that’s stalling it is FAA regulations in the U.S., since there are some concerns about drones in the American government. It’s likely that the FAA will solve these concerns before too long however, which will open up the field for more of this kind of work.
UAS for Mining
Mining companies in areas throughout the world are already using drones to improve how efficiently they can mine. Basically drones are used as scouts to accurately measure different site conditions in terms of how valuable the area is for mining, and how safe it would be to mine there. Specifically drones can inspect pit walls, figure out quantities, and even create three dimensional maps of mining areas. The LiDAR sensors on UAV platforms would be ideal for 3D mapping of mines and these are likely going to be used increasingly. It makes a lot more sense to have drones map mines rather than leave it to people, since drones aren’t alive and their loss is more of a financial problem than a tragic human one. Humans also lack the ability to fly and to be able to move around in bad environments such as areas that have inadequate oxygen or poison gas in them. This makes drones ideal for this kind of work.
UAV for Wildlife Research
Drones are a lot much better at getting really close up shots and scans of wildlife than humans are. They can track wildlife migrations and movements remotely and even protect against potential poaching since they can see entire populations from on high. They can operate at night as well with infrared sensors. This use of drones will make it harder than ever for poachers to try and get away with killing off endangered species.
Aerial Drones for Rescue Operations
As you might imagine, the ability to fly a large number of small vehicles over a huge radius in the sky can really go a long way to helping those who are lost, on the land or at sea. Drones are already starting to be used for this purpose in various places in real life currently. For example, there was a car accident victim in Canada in 2013 who became confused after the accident and wandered off into the surrounding forest, jeopardizing their own life. An ambulance helicopter with night-vision gear on-board flew around looking for the individual, but failed to find them. But then a special drone was dispatched with heat-sensing gear, and this drone was able to find the individual before they freeze to death in the forest. Search and rescue is simply an operation that’s much better suited to drones than to people in helicopters. It can be very time consuming and dangerous for people, whereas drones can fly around and find lost persons with little trouble at all.
UAV Scouts in Agriculture
UAVs can be used for more purposes than just scouting things. You can actually fertilize entire fields with drones, especially in locations that are really hard or even impossible to reach with traditional machines like tractors. Examples of such locations include areas high up in the mountains, for example. But drones are still good for surveying, and by combining these processes together it’s possible to see just how useful drones can be for farming. That is, they can identify areas that are low on water, and then provide water to those areas. They can identify whatever resources are needed by certain areas such as pesticide, fertilizer and so on, and then deliver those resources. They can do both processes much better than any human operated vehicle ever could.
The main criticism of drones in areas like the United States is that they could be used combatively or to violate privacy. But this simply means that more regulations are needed to make sure this tech isn’t abused. The same concerns occurred with helicopters and airplanes, and were addressed in turn. This is exactly what’s happening with drones, and we have every reason to believe they will soon be regulated as well, so that everyone can benefit from the many applications of drone technology.