On the face of it, drones seem like exciting toys – an evolution of the remote-controlled car; something kids can use to entertain themselves. But when you dig a little deeper, you soon discover that they’re much more than that. Drones have massive potential in practically every field of human endeavour and could make all our lives much better.
Drones, also sometimes called unmanned aerial vehicles, typically use a variety of navigation technologies. Consumer and commercial versions both offer a range of impressive features, such as object avoidance and artificial intelligence to sense their environments. Some even come with the same LIDAR technology found on autonomous vehicles, allowing them to instantly map the terrain beneath them, and respond to it.
Companies all over the world are trying to work out how to use drones to improve their operations. This process requires them to think a little outside the box. It’s not always clear how to use novel technology. Drones are so unusual in their form factor and capabilities that a large number of businesses are still figuring out how they might use them as the tech matures.
People are excited about drone technology, but why? The equipment itself is fun, but it’s the applications that are the most interesting.
Drones Will Save Lives
Finding somebody who has broken their leg on a windswept moor is a challenge for people on the ground. Shrubbery and changes in the elevation of the land mean that it is hard to see the injured person when standing on the same level as them. The same, however, is not true when you have a drone.
Search and rescue teams can simply get a rough idea of where the injured person is located and then send a drone to it at elevation. Drone sensor technology – including thermal imaging – can then immediately alert them of the location and send it back to a GPS tracker.
Remember, the usual process of founding people on a mountainside is a treacherous and dangerous one. Search teams themselves often put themselves in considerable peril when trying to find somebody. Drones can remove much of that risk and show them a direct path to the affected party.
Drones Offer Employment
With the automation of vast sectors of the economy expected over the next two decades, the world needs more jobs for people. But where will they come from? Some analysts think that the answer is drones.
Drones could offer employment through several channels, but most commentators believe that they will facilitate analytical roles. Drone pilots will take control of the machines to survey patches of land or buildings and then use the collected data to perform analyses. Workers on building sites, for instance, could inspect the current status of building work and then use drone-gathered data to generate reports. Environmental workers could also use drones to survey large areas of forest or marshes to keep tabs on the current state of the ecosystem. The possibilities are virtually endless.
The Drone Industry Will Increase In Size, Creating New Wealth
Related to employment is the fact that the drone industry itself is likely to become a significant contributor to national economies. Drones aren’t a small sector. As the machines themselves get more substantial and more capable, the demand for them will increase, and more companies will enter the industry. Production will rise, and so too will drone-specific R&D. Currently, the smartphone industry is driving many of the changes that we see in drone capabilities, but that could soon change once the industry begins to take off.
Experts estimate that demand for drones like the Mavic Mini will reach 2.7 million by 2020. Chinese firm DJI currently dominates the market, but that could soon change if major eCommerce retailers implement drone technology, as expected, by 2026.
Interestingly, the pandemic might accelerate the use of drones throughout the economy. With so much need for social distancing, drones offer the perfect technology to make deliveries safely, protecting both workers and delivery personnel.
The drone industry will likely expand tremendously if it becomes possible to transport people via drones safely. Uber is already working on airport transfer drones services. If this application becomes mainstream, it opens up vast opportunities for the market. It could become as sizable as the car industry.
A Global Market Insights report recently concluded that the drone industry would be worth $17 billion by 2024. Applications include delivery, media, real estate, agriculture and construction.
Drone Technology Is Outpacing Regulation
Regulation in the aviation industry is one of the reasons why it is so static. Regulators believe that their actions are necessary because they improve safety. Yet the effect of their action is to prevent entrepreneurs from disrupting the market – something that could dramatically increase wealth and efficiency.
Drones, though, are so advanced that many commentators see them as a way of getting one step ahead of the regulators, providing a way to bypass many of the stifling rules that keep everything in stasis. According to industry leaders, the aim of firms today is to develop solutions that are so compelling that they inevitably win people over. They are so advanced that they sidestep regulatory stipulations and provide impressive results. Governments, it is hoped, won’t be able to keep pace with developments, allowing the industry to flourish and consumers to achieve a higher quality of life.
Experts Predict Seven Million Drones By The End Of 2020
There are already a large number of drones in the sky, but experts predict the figure will reach more than 7 million by the end of 2020. The explosion in drone technology is tremendous. In 2016, there were under 50,000 registered drones, proving just how much things have advanced in a few short years. The technology is so compelling that it is hard for industry and the general public to ignore. Having a drone is now seen as fundamental and essential.
Developing security solutions is always a massive challenge. Traditionally, it involved placing static cameras around buildings to cover points out entry. Criminals would simply disable the cameras or enter sides via entry points cameras didn’t cover to avoid detection.
Drones, though, could be their worst nightmare. They won’t replace security cameras or guards, but rather augment them. A guard with access to a drone could more easily check out security breach alerts, assessing the threat before organizing a response. Security personnel could use a rotating fleet of drones, with one in the air while several others recharge their batteries. This way, high-value installation could have around-the-clock drone protection, without any interruption in service.
Winged-drones could potentially provide broad aspect surveillance over entire areas – as they do today in military applications. Wings allow them to remain aloft using less energy than rotors, extending both their time in the air and their range. Typically, these drones use more expensive components, so they may not make it into the commercial sector for some time.
Mapping remote locations has always been a challenge. Global surveillance satellites have gone some way to providing an accurate picture of the globe, but they’ve only taken us so far. Drones may be able to complete the job, giving ultra-accurate maps of the topology of difficult-to-reach areas. Mapping caves, for instance, is notoriously tricky. But the scientific community could use LIDAR-equipped drones to carry out the work in record time.
In summary, drones are becoming one of the most exciting technology platforms on the planet. The fact that they’re already here suggests that they have room to run.