7 Industries Utilizing Drones To Maximize Efficiency
From scanning the popular press, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that the skies are filled with drones. Their uptake has grown exponentially over the course of the last few years, as has their scope. One key aspect of this (in addition to the high levels of consumer interest drones have received) has been their ever-greater value in both commercial and industrial applications. In turn, following the curve that is so familiar to technology-based markets, increasingly widespread adoption of drones has resulted in greater economies of scale – thus enabling price points to fall and extending usage further.
Most of the media attention concerning drones seems to be focused on their consumer use (or, more commonly, misuse). However, it is in the industrial and commercial sectors that the most noteworthy applications are now appearing.
1. Military and Defence
Drones have been used by the military for several decades, initially as decoy vehicles and then subsequently finding numerous other roles – such as for reconnaissance, logistics and data collection. Their utilization has helped to mitigate threats posed to military personnel by providing an ‘eye in the sky’ that facilitates fast response in critical situations.
2. Rescue and Recovery
Led by their ability to access places that humans (or other forms of machinery) simply cannot go. Humanitarian agencies and rescue services have employed drones for surveying areas that are cut off in the aftermath of natural disasters.
In the last couple of years, drones have proven instrumental when it came to assessing the damage caused by the cyclone that hit the Pacific island of Vanuatu, appraising the state of roads following the major earthquake in Ecuador, and comparing images from before and after hurricanes in Haiti to help determine how many homes would need to be rebuilt.
Drones have also been utilised for entering collapsed buildings affected by disasters to help accurately locate trapped casualties for efficient rescue missions.
3. Logistics and Distribution
In 2016, DHL trialed services to deliver medical supplies and other small packages to remote villages in Bavaria that would have been considerably harder to reach by conventional vehicles, not least because of the meteorological challenges posed by the location. The trial involved cooperation from the German Federal Ministry for Transportation (BMVI), in relation to establishing a restricted flight zone dedicated to the trial, and the Bavarian Aviation Authority, which approved flight clearances.
Analyst firm IDTechEx has predicted ‘smart farming’ will be worth more than $420m by 2028. Japan, for example, has been relying on unmanned remote-controlled helicopters to spray rice fields since the early 1990s. Precision technology helps to reduce the quantity of chemicals needed, so the whole procedure can be better directed. The environmental impact is consequently reduced significantly.
Surveying and mapping constitute important tasks for drones within the construction sector. They can be used to rapidly inspect bridges or tall buildings that would otherwise entail the installation of cranes, which takes time and has major cost implications.
Japanese-headquartered multinational company, Komatsu, has used drones to help overcome a shortage of builders by scanning sites and (via the computer-generated images derived) subsequently deployed unmanned bulldozers and diggers to move earth and dig holes in accordance with the plans of the site that are drawn up.
Drones can help monitor progress on a construction site too; for instance, carrying out regular scans of the project and providing an audit trail. Any small gains in efficiency are certain to help offset some of the high level of materials wastage for which the construction industry is renowned.
When it comes to implementing network infrastructure within inhospitable or un-navigable terrain, drones have proven advantageous to telecom companies too. In 2017, fiber cabling for high speed broadband needed to be brought to the northern Welsh village of Pontfadog. A lightweight line was attached to a small drone and this was flown towards a group of houses situated up on an extremely steep tree-lined hill. Once the line was in place, the fiber cable could be pulled across (since this would have been too heavy a load for the drone to carry by itself).
7. Film and Photography
In 2012 Skyfall was the first movie that used a drone for filming up-close action scenes. The opening scene features a motorbike chase across several rooftops that would have otherwise been impossible to film. Previously, drones had been used in Hollywood features to capture broader landscape views from a distance.
In America, the NFL became the first major sports league allowed to fly drones within the stadium in 2015. NFL Films plans to capture footage from closed-set locations around NFL stadiums and practice facilities to make films and television segments. However, due to the strict guidelines set out by the Federal Aviation Administration the NFL are not able to film actual games or fans on game day. In general, drones are more cost effective to operate for filming and safer than piloting a crewed aircraft for the same purpose because they don’t carry passengers or flammable fuel.
All of these examples demonstrate the need for high quality components that can support this burgeoning area of technology.