As the development and use of drones continues is on a rapid rise, so is the diversity of the commercial use of drones, whether for recreational enjoyment and/or in the business sector. The following are some of the common uses already, such as agricultural use, geo-mapping, inspection of various infrastructures, parcel delivery, professional aerial photography, etc.
We will be looking at some other uses that may be of interest.
With the rapid rise of drone technology, the big technology giants such as Amazon, Alphabet, and others, have recognized the potential for leveraging technology for profitable purposes, such as delivering packages. The fact is, that in the future, most of the activities and jobs that people are now doing will be replaced by some technology and robotics, whether by land, water, or air.
The delivery sector started in 2016 when the first drone delivery in the world was made by Domino Pizza’s delivery in collaboration with Flirtey, a drone technology company. The delivery was done in New Zealand, 15 miles from the capital city of Auckland. An autonomous guidance function using GPS (Global Positioning System) was used in this first successful drone delivery.
The potential in reducing shipping costs for both the recipient and the sender is remarkable.
There is definitely a future in shipping parcels using drones, but not as fast as we thought, mainly due to the many regulations and laws, the technical malfunctioning of technologies, and the acceptance by humans as consumers of such a delivery operation. Once these issues are worked out, the opportunities in this market are limitless.
Agriculture is essential for the survival of all humanity on the planet. The continual increase in population makes the global need to end hunger ever more urgent. It is estimated that to meet this urgent need, the existing agricultural capacity must be increased by as much as 70%.
Drones have the ability to execute perfect flight paths when recording given areas, and have the ability to gather a much wider range of information using different sensors. These sensors are crucial for the early detection of disease, and the amount of yield and the quality of the plants. Drones are more efficient at observation at a significantly lower cost and in a shorter time than any other option. Crop planting is used successfully at a cost reduction by as much as 85%. Irrigation and its treatment with pesticides, is also very important for the development of healthy agricultural flora.
A variety of sensors are now used by drones to calculate the distance and adjust their height according to the topography of the ground, where they scan the soil, and disperse the carefully analyzed amounts of fluid. This not only reduces the amount of chemicals used, but it is considered to be five times faster and more efficient than conventional machines and techniques.
Surveillance is an obvious choice for using drones, especially since the military has been using drones for surveillance for a considerable time already. Police are already using drones to enlarge their view of traffic patterns, capturing fugitives, and assisting in hostage crisis, where special police use small mini drones (nano drones) for reconnaissance, sending them inside the area, with additional “eyes,” where the action is taking place, so they have a better understanding of how to proceed. What is expected in the near future is that drones will be able to recognize faces, thus facilitating the identification of people, generally, and criminals, specifically.
Currently, the FAA has strict rules regarding the use of drones in open and also very populated areas. Those involved in this business, will have to work with a number of government agencies, public safety and private sectors.
Insurance companies are among the top five markets in the world that use drone technology to facilitate their operations. Drones are most commonly used in assessing damage to larger insured facilities, such as homes, offices and other building infrastructures that the insured owns.
The most frequent damage to family homes across the U.S. are the hazards of strong winds. Roofs of houses, therefore, are the most commonly affected parts. Since roofs are essential to the structure of the building itself, it is crucial that such parts be inspected regularly and inspected and repaired when damaged, as soon as possible. The conventional way of assessing the damage requires an inspector at the site of the accident, and his detailed inspection over a significant period of time, since he has to use a ladder and risk possible injury as he typically will have to walk on the roof to adequately inspect it. This includes inaccessible parts of the building.
Using the drone at the same accident site results in a significantly reduced damage assessment time, and reduced staff, since only one person, a pilot, is needed to manage the drone from a safe distance at the location of the accident. It is estimated that this type of damage inspection and assessment is three times faster than the traditional approach.
The purpose of such application of drones is because the use of drones significantly speeds up the process even while it is more efficient and safe. This is very important since the inspection of the property after damage has occurred, can more quickly be assessed, and the insured paid and satisfied with the service of the insurance company.
In addition to property inspection after the damage has occurred, is inspecting property prior to signing an insurance contract in order to assess the risk of the assessed construction itself. Furthermore, there are also savings for insurance companies because of the reduced need for staff, who have traditionally done this type of work.
5. Inspection of Commercial Aircraft
Boeing, one of the world leaders in commercial aircraft manufacturing, has found commercial drone technology useful in commercial air transport. Drones are utilized to inspect commercial air transport aircraft thereby multiplying the efficiency of the activities that are necessary in complimenting the airline’s main business.
Other air crriers, such as EasyJet and Thomas Cook, which claim to be able to inspect the complete formwork of an aircraft in just 10 minutes for Airbus 320 aircraft. This inspection included photos taken at a single inspection of a very high resolution, which was “extremely authentic, repeatedly cleaner and sharper, than the naked eye.”* It is also claimed that “the advantage of this type of inspection is most evident in the high-quality perception of the severity of damage caused by lightning strikes in the formwork of the aircraft or some other similar damage.”*
This inspection process is explained:
“Initially, the drone inspected by the aircraft will be operated by a trained engineer via a remote control to use autonomous function drones with pre-programmed inspection route trajectories in the near future. The drone, using built-in sensors, determines the safe and optimal distance from the formwork of the aircraft to capture high-resolution photographs, which are then scanned in 3D (three dimensional) resolution. The drone used in the test inspections is a 4 kg Rapid model with all its equipment and sensors.”*
It is expected that this type of aircraft inspection will become common in the industry since “time is money,” especially in aviation.
The daily use of drones will eventually become the basis for successful business of all types of industries and businesses.
Drones are undoubtedly making great strides in technology, and these advances are seeking to benefit many emerging industries presented in this blog, such as delivery, agriculture, surveillance, insurance, and inspection of aircraft.