What are drones used for?
The short answer:
The main and overwhelming use of drones is to capture photos or video footage. As we will look at further on, this has a range of possibilities and utilities. Drones can also be used a hub or node for internet broadcast or to make a WIFI hotspot. They can be utilised as spotlights in emergency situations. They are being used as pest control at airports and landfill sites to control bird populations. Let’s not forget as well, drones are just really enjoyable to fly and past some time.
Drone use has exploded in a number of different sectors. The last three years have seen the emergence of companies putting their money where their mouth is and begin to create and innovate in a market, that is set to explode to the following next three years.
- This is down to a number of factors. The competition has really heated up over the last year with low cost drones soon to be available to virtually everyone.
- The constant improvement in technology – In material science,
- battery improvement
- power to weight ratio jumps
- imaginative uses and designs
All has resulted is a large snowball affect of this particular technology.
It is a mini revolution that will paint a future picture of robots and flying machines that was only thought possible in Sci-Fi Movies in the 1980’s.
Drones in the current market can be categorised by the manufacturers target user.
- Toys – Designed for children
- Hobby – Designed for adults
- Professional – For business
- Commercial – Bespoke designs for specific problems
- Military – Designed for mission purpose
These levels of categories can also be seen as a rough skill and cost metric.
Amateur to Professional
Hobbyists have been flying drones or aircraft manned by a person for years. It has always been an expensive and logistically time consuming excursion. The community was always seen akin to train spotter geeks, but with injection of the quadcopter’s and cousins, the past time is now seen in a very different light. Some would say it is ‘cool’ to have and fly a drone now.
Nonetheless, the industry has had a serious bump in all numbers since the realisation of the business utility of drones. Nearly every sector by now, has come across the use of drones. They have grown from hobbyist video play toys to studio quality, movie producing tools. From kids racing RC cars around lamp posts to Dubai’s diamond studded stadium hosting the drone championship finals. The superstar making of kids as young as 15 will only encourage the next generation of kids to start wanting to emulate their heroes.
The military has had the largest share in the Drone market. Ever since World War I, when both the U.S.A & France were developing autonomous and unmanned airplane technology. Only in recent years have we seen them explode, to be in the public eye, nowadays, at nearly every turn. Only in the last few years have we really seen drones shake off a little of their military flying machine stigma.
Fit for public consumption
The consumer market has taken off tremendously over the past few years, this will only improve as the cost and skill entry levels lower due to competition and technology. The biggest market still only dipping their toes in the water is the business market. Although the adoption is speeding up now, these companies have had good reason to be cautious. Regulation and law making has not given anyone much confidence if the product they buy today will be permitted in a years time.
This can be a real problem for the ability of companies to commit to the technologies. Some companies have taken the risk to get a head start on their rivals, in the line of thinking the government will come around to an acceptable level of regulation to make their business financially viable.
Fixed wing drone
The fixed wing U.A.V is utilised for fast, accurate long range mapping. Where the drone makes several passes over the desired plot depending on the flight plan designed pre-flight. Although this primarily thought as a farmland technology. The plotting of topography for medium to large scale construction plots provides invaluable information to planners and engineers to locate potential problems before they arise and inflict unseen costs.
The multirotors are used to suit their qualities. Just the ability to hover, near motionless has a range of use cases. The multirotors combined ability of hovering and flying give them the widest possibilities for practical use. Close visual inspections in hard to reach areas or at height. Surveillance and security, day or night. Lighting for night time emergencies. Dropping of packages and medicine in dangerous situations. Live progress of work site to office.
Although, with the quick development of drone design, a hybrid of both technologies are emerging. Just showing the rapid evolution and maybe a peek into the future of their development. Indicating over the next decade we will see a host more of innovative designs and use cases.
Main Drone Industries/Sectors
Construction and Engineering
Drone use in the construction sector has more than doubled in the last year. The largest adoption by any Industry. This is because the magnitude of possibilities drones provide.
Each division of a company are taking advantage in ways that suit them.
From sourcing and sales to communication and transportation, the technology has infiltrated more and more into everyday running of businesses.
A drones ability to survey large areas of land at low cost with an array of sensors is proving invaluable to farmers.
Fixed wing drones can follow their flight plan to cover every blade of grass on the premise or every blade asked for.
The following reports can churn out topography analysis, water saturation, terrain hot spots, plant disease and plan views at production quantity.
The amount of data is only limited to the need of client and the technology available.
Utilities and Energy
Probably the biggest sector where drones will be used as inspection tools above any other. Oil & Gas platforms, energy plants, wind farm pylons and blades.
Sending a drone up a 100m derrick or flare stack to evaluate a potential problem is so much quicker, cheaper and safer than a 3 man rope access team.
Media and Entertainment
All sorts of media companies were one of the first commercial sectors to jump on the new tech. Advert makers filming cars, news outlets having fleets of drones for war coverage or breaking news.
Walt Disney has a choreographed drone light show. We are sure many more companies will follow suit. Now with drones like the DJI Ryze Tello, even school kids can program multiple drones to produce and choreographed show.
Transportation & Delivery
As we have all seen the amazon drones have been in development for years. Amazon being one of those companies that has invested heavily in the future of this technology.
This will take place in the industrial sector first. Eventually we may see our pizzas delivered by drones, let’s just hope they get them to us hotter than the delivery guy.
An idea to use drones as a telecommunication node has been flown about now for a few years. Facebook launched its testing of an internet sky drone, that could spend months aloft beaming a signal to areas that still do not have the infrastructure
Inspection is not a sector by its own right, but drones will be utilised in all sectors for this purpose in one way or another.
Each inspection costs time, labour and has safety implications. In situations where a drone could complete the task to the ability as a human, it makes sense to send one to do the job.
There will always be a need for the human eye, but drones can provide a way to highlight areas that need further inspection by a manned team and even provide follow up data for the maintenance inspection plan put in place.
Search & Rescue
An obvious advantage while searching is the ability to cover as much ground as possible. Our flying friends can cut the time dramatically covering the ground quicker, hence potentially saving more lives.
Once the casualty is found, drones can have other duties for instance providing sufficient light for the scene. Drones at the moment are very independent.
Usually needing one pilot for each drone. As hive technology improves, one pilot could control a troop of drones to better coordinate the search.
Biologists and ecologists are another group that have been utilising the tools drones provide. Counting a seal population on that sand bank 1km offshore, now can be done by flight, no need for the days boating excursion anymore.
There are many more instances of hard to reach places to record data can now be carried out by U.A.V.
Species and groups of animals and plants can be studied without disturbance and reduced risk of passing on infections or viruses.
With the incredible rise of drone racing – a day at the races can mean a totally different thing these days. The new technology has carved a niche in spectator sports. Where racers get hundreds of thousands of views on their YouTube channels.
The racing drones are designed to be extra quick, nimble with the pilots control restrictions removed so they can extract every ounce of speed and manoeuvrability.
Tracks are designed to test drone and pilots capabilities. Nerves and drone control are tested with fast and tight corners, heights and drops with lots of obstacles for spectacular crashes.
Racing leagues have popped up all over the World with professional competitions and championships being held and getting bigger every year.
It is a high adrenaline sport to watch, never mind to participate, especially when you get to see the FPV (First Persons View) of the racing in real-time.
For people like me and you, who can’t go out and buy a drone today and have stunning professional looking aerial photos and panning video without taking a cinematography degree.
The consumer market has brought a variety of affordable drones to the masses. Now, this market is really opening up.
Today, I see a more lenient public perception of drones. Initial fears seem to be fading, with manufacturers ramping up production to fill every niche marketable.
2019 will be another year of increased sales to all kinds of consumers from young kids, teens taking selfies and family holidays recorded in new ways.