Gone are the days where aerial photography mostly belonged to the rich and famous. Thanks to the growing popularity of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), we can now feast our eyes on a selection of scenes taken from elevated viewpoints. The pairing of drone and camera – whether still or in motion has expanded our horizon in a multitude of ways, bringing technology within reach of the public and much closer to home.

Nowadays, society is no stranger to enhanced technologies and we are starting to grasp Artificial Intelligence (AI) and it’s potential. Add to this the freedom of movement, flexibility of reach, speed and maneuverability that drones are known for, and our perspective once again takes another leap forward.

Taking a closer look at autonomous and manually operated aerial vehicles, we realize they hold highly sophisticated scientific application in commerce and industry. Drones were designed to impact positively on society and destined to do even more so in future.  And we are not being disappointed.

Check out these 16 ways in which drones are affecting the daily lives of organizations and individuals. It is changing the way people are conducting business in almost every industry.

3D MAPPING

The Matterhorn on the border between Italy and Switzerland in the Pennine Alps is known as the mountain of mountains. In October 2013 a team of senseFly engineers carried lightweight minidrones to map this mountain with a summit of 4 478 meters above sea level.

To meet the Swiss requirements for line-of-sight operations, they launched the drones from three different locations and altitudes. The lightweight minidrones made transport easier but careful planning was needed to cope with turbulence. Flights were carried out from just above 3 260 m to about 50 m above Matterhorn. The team covered an area of over 2800 hectares with their ground control software eMotion 2 playing a big role in the unprecedented quality of the dataset and their 3D mapping success.

Drone mapping platforms make it relatively fast and easy to generate accurate topographic surveys, with its uses stretching from golf courses to terrain generation for video/electronic games.

https://www.suasnews.com/2013/10/sensefly-map-the-matterhorn/

DRONE DATA COLLECTION

In 2018 Belair was the only drone company recognised by the World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer, with their drone surveying technology providing a cloud-based integrated solution in managing, analysing and sharing of data. This recognition was based on their potential to “transform society and industry” and to “shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Drones can bring more productivity and efficiency to businesses.

Michael de Lagarde, CEO at Delair says: “With Delair Aerial Intelligence we can offer the combined power of an enterprise-focused workflow and proven industry-specific analytics to help turn aerial data into actionable business insight.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Atomics_MQ-1_Predator

DEFENCE

The United States started to use drones in the early 1980’s and an experiment with an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft (drone) gave rise to the MQ-1 Predator . Being a remote piloted aircraft, the Predator was developed to help keep personnel safe and out of the immediate conflict zones.

UAV’s are used by militaries around the world, like the British Army, Australian Army, Norway’s Armed Forces and the US Marines. With defence budgets in the US of $640 Billion it is expected that the overall spending on specialized drone technology will continue to grow. This creates growing opportunities for drone manufacturers and software developers.

Today Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs), Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) as well as UAV’s are employed in the military and marine on from surveillance to defence and offensive missions.

EMERGENCY RESPONSE

t is a known fact that timing is key during any emergency. In the event of flood emergencies search and rescue operations greatly benefit from drone technology. Street maps of the area can be overplayed with data gathered by drones and so pin-point the crisis areas and determine operation priorities, with first responders receiving real-time information to find the best route to location.

Emergencies relating to earthquakes and collapse of structures leave many people buried under rubble and obscured from sight. Outfitting drones with thermal imaging cameras assists emergency response personnel in finding and identify victims who otherwise could not be found immediately with the naked eye.

Edgybees and HCL Technologies are working together to showcase remote drone operations during natural and other disasters. Their Edgybees’ intelligent video drone software application driven by DRYiCE[TM] AIOps zero-touch automation of tasks and processes focus on search and rescue operations during flood emergencies.

The UAS DRONES Disaster Conference (UASDISCON) will be held in Los Angeles in March 2019. This conference will give relief organizations, drone manufacturers and software developers a platform to further improve on strengthening the assistance technology can provide humanity in time of great need.

CONSERVATION

As a continent with vast open land, drones are helping to protect Africa’s wildlife. Animals are  threatened by loss of habitat and poaching. With the assistance of innovative methods and drone technology, UAV’s are making it easier to seek, find, count and monitor animals. Conservationists are also using UAV’s to collect samples and tag animals.

Rare Species Fund (RSF), an international non-profit organization, works towards protecting endangered species around the world. Robert Johnson, Manager at RSF has been using DJI Phantoms to record and photograph the fund’s work. This helps in their campaigns to raise awareness of the ties that exist between human life and the natural world.

Robert has this to say about using DJI technology: “One of the best features is that it can all be packed into a hard case and taken wherever you go. Just a few years ago, the idea of a reliable flying camera platform that is both portable and affordable would have been unheard of.”

Drones equipped with night vision helps fight poaching in South Africa too. Claire Burke from the Liverpool University says that the thermal infrared cameras make it easy for them to see the animals at night. “….thermal footage ‘glow’ in the same way as stars and galaxies in space.” Using this technology not only helps them to find the animals but also the poachers.

During general operation, drones make it possible for conservationists to observe and research wildlife without disturbing them.

DISEASE CONTROL

With the help of drones and smart traps, Microsoft is turning mosquitoes into field biologists to collect blood samples and enable them to detect viruses before they spread.

The Global Health, Epidemiology and Genomics published a review article on Drone Technology by RM Carrillo-Larco and other, on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for health purposes. The study results show a prominent future for drone technology in medicine with its ability to reduce delays in emergency response, and that drones could even help improve wireless connection during surgical procedures in war zones.

HEALTH CARE

The majority of rural communities lack access to modern medicine. Drone technology is already making a big impact in countries like Rwanda and Ghana. Zipline set up a distribution point for blood and vaccines, and is capable of launching an unmanned aircraft in the air within 5 minutes of receiving an order. They combine the GPS software with the batteries to save them on booting up time, helping their response timing.

Once an aircraft is loaded the battery is fitted, followed by the wings, an inspection, it is loaded onto a motor rail and shot off like a catapult to ensure it has enough speed for lift off. At times an aircraft simply drops medical supplies attached with a parachute if landing is not necessary or possible. Where the Zipline UAV has to land, two arms with a wire strung between them catch the hook at the end of the tail.

AGRICULTURE

Farming is the food basket of a country. There is a direct correlation between our health and the food we consume. James Paterson, Chief Executive and co-founder of Aerobatics explains the value of UAV’s like this. “We have been working extremely hard over the past few years with growers and industry partners to create technology that will completely change how farmers manage their crops, identify stressed trees and spot individual pests and diseases without setting foot on the farm.”

Not only does a farmer have the ability to see his crop from a much better vantage point, technology and software can also assist a farmer in identifying diseases and evaluating the general health of crops. Drones also help farmers inspect fences and monitor other activities from a distance.

WEATHER FORECASTING

The observation of weather was usually done from static weather stations. This meant that data collected was limited to the scope of observation. Weather by nature is a complex system and constantly on the move. To best understand weather, gather information and research its many phenomena, again it is drones that help researchers compile and work with data which is not limited to within a few kilometre radius of the weather station.

MARITIME

The Rolls Royce Research and Development Centre focus on Autonomous Ships. Using Intelligent Awareness (IA) and sensor data fusion their advisory system is revolutionizing safety at sea and improving operational efficiency with unmanned, remote piloting.

And Orobotix, sub-surface autonomous vehicles, are used in shipping as they do a much better job in a much shorter time of inspecting the hull of a ship. Similarly above the water surface, UAV’s help inspect freight for and maintaining security.

MINING

Kumba Iron Ore, a subsidiary of Anglo American, earned their operating license to fly remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). Although the compliance process at the Civil Aviation Authority was a lengthy one, it seems they are already reaping the benefit of drone technology at their Sishen mine in the Northern Cape.

Bongi Ntsoelengoe, Technical Manager at Kumba Iron Ore explains that previously some of the routine tasks were carried out by surveyors included measuring the volume of waste dumps and stockpiles. Now, with the help of drones digitally capturing data, Kumba has optimized the surveying process saving them time and  increasing coverage. The Executive Head of Technical and Projects, Glen Mc Gavigan said they are now getting larger datasets delivered in less time. Fewer hours in the field also cuts on exposure to pollution.

Drones are making it easier for the mine to conduct engineering inspections, collect samples and obtain data from hard to reach places. Linking different devices like a smartphone with the drone also makes ground to surface communication instant.

CONSTRUCTION

The ability to manage information and communication on site can lead to shorter project lifespans, safer working conditions and better-quality finishing.

With drone technology project management is becoming less strenuous and more complete. And in 2018 the Multinational Japanese construction corporation Komatsu ordered 1000 drones in a combined deal with DJI and Skycatch.

In an article by Nick Madigan for the New York Times, Lamberto Frescobaldi  head of a 700-year-old winemaking dynasty said, “these modern devices, these videos – it’s progress.” Together with his architect, and after a couple of drone flights, that made the lines and curves they envisioned clearer, Lamberto modified the entrance to the 2322 square meter garden.

INFRASTRUCTURE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT

An eagle’s view over a suburb, city or intersection assists city town planners and engineers in identifying areas for development most suited for city planning.

The Rustenburg Municipality’s Rustenburg Rapid Transport (RRT) project used DJO Phantom 4 Pro drones (2017) to map and track progress and in working towards becoming a more efficient service provider, the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (DID) launched their first drone programme.

The DID and the Centre for Applied Research and Innovation at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) achieved above expectation in monitoring infrastructure developments because they incorporated drone technologies. Using the high resolution images received to create and update the 3D computer models of projects, they could then compare these to the actual approved building plans, with any deviation being immediately identified and queried.

Drone technology combines human, business and artificial intelligence.

INSURANCE

Drones are used in numerous ways to determine the cost of damage and legality in property claims. The maneuverability of UAV’s assists inspectors in this. Converge Industries established in Colorade in 2015 does just that. As a commercial drone software provider they bring drone technology to insurance and the construction industries.

“We are using artificial intelligence to turn drones into an essential team member, working alongside humans, transforming the efficiency of operations. Drones have the ability to take on dull, dirty, and dangerous work; removing risk and enabling companies to save valuable time and money.” – David Pitman, Co-Founder and CEO of Converge.

PERSONAL TRANSPORTATION

Want to skip traffic? The future may see Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAV’s transporting people more often. In 2017 Dubai announced their autonomous drone taxis designed to carry one person with small luggage. These drones are operated from a ground control room, take 100 kg and can fly up to 100 km/h.

AIRLINES

De-icing and many other safety inspections are crucial to the safe transportation of passengers. Airbus and Intel partnered to conduct exterior aircraft inspections with UAV’s. Airbus Aerial works towards inspection solutions focusing on this and other industries. With data collected by drones helping create detailed 3D models of fleets. Importantly using drones assists airlines with compliance in FAA inspection regulations. Ganard Drones provides inspection solutions to airports.

These are just some key highlights on the sheer effectiveness of drones and what we can expect to see more of into our future.