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Industries Using Drones In Innovative Ways

– Contributed content –

Drone in flight

(Pixabay)

12 May 2020. As drone technology improves and the cost comes down, they are becoming a very popular consumer item. Hobbyists enjoy flying and racing them, and a lot of people are using them to take aerial photos and videos. But drones aren’t just a consumer novelty, they actually have a lot of great commercial uses. In many industries, drones are changing the way that businesses do things and helping to improve safety in a lot of different ways. These are some of the industries that are adopting drone technology and using it in different ways.

Construction

Health and safety are so important in the construction industry, and there are a lot of great tech innovations that are helping to keep people safe on work sites. Drones are excellent for inspecting dangerous locations on site without the need to send workers up there, and they can carry out aerial inspections, making it easier to catch any issues that may have been missed. There are some great commercial drones, like the Matrice 300 RTK, that are built to withstand a lot of use. These can be used for inspecting roofs, sites, and mining operations. Site data can be captured by drones and then fed into software to provide in-depth analysis.

Drones are also being used by architects to create better drawings and renderings of planned construction projects. By using drones to take cheap aerial images of the area, they can create a realistic mock-up that demonstrates exactly how the building will look when finished. They can also use it to map the surrounding areas and ensure that the construction project will not cause damage to the local environment.

Agriculture 

People often equate the agricultural industry with traditional heavy machinery and assume that farms don’t use things like drones or AI technology, but that isn’t the case at all. There are some great agricultural startups that are using drone technology and AI to help overcome challenges posed by climate change. It makes sense when you think about it because agricultural workers need to stay abreast of large areas of land and analyze them. Drones provide a much easier way to assess all of this land in a short space of time, and they can provide a lot of data about water use, crop health, soil analysis, and heat signatures. Traditionally, this information would be captured using expensive planes, so agricultural businesses are saving a lot of money by using drones.

There is a lot of investment going into agricultural drones and software that can process all of the information that they collect. John Deere has partnered with a company called Sentera to create a piece of software called AgVault and a set of specialized agriculture drones to collect information. Although the technology is new, a lot of agricultural businesses have already adopted these kinds of systems and they are finding new ways to benefit from it.

Warehousing and inventory 

If you can use a drone to scan a large area of land and provide detailed information about the crops and the soil, why couldn’t you do the same in a warehouse full of goods? Large retailers, like Walmart, have already caught on to this potential and they are using drones to help them manage their inventory. Although barcode systems can track items that are sold, it is important to carry out inventory checks to check for missing or damaged items. It can take months for workers to do this manually in a huge warehouse, but with drone technology, it can be done in a single day.

Big retailers, like Walmart and Amazon, have developed their own software for inventory drones but there are a lot of drone manufacturers that are creating their own versions. In the future, it is likely that all retail companies will be able to buy drones and software to manage their inventory.

Infrastructure maintenance 

The maintenance of infrastructure, like power lines and cell towers, can be very labor intensive. You need workers to travel to the site, which may be quite isolated, and then climb towers or pylons and check for any issues before carrying out maintenance. But drones can make this whole process so much easier. In some cases, helicopters are needed to reach incredibly remote places and that can be very costly. The New York Power Authority recognized this problem all too well, so they switched to using drones, which were more than 10 times cheaper than flying workers out by helicopter. It also has a big impact on safety because you don’t need people to be working at heights.

This is one area where drones have really taken off and most energy providers are using them to inspect infrastructure. Things like wind turbines, in particular, take a long time to assess for damage and a lot of time and money can be saved by using drones.

In some cases, drones are not just being used to maintain infrastructure, they are being used to replace it. AT&T has developed a drone called the Flying COW that can be used as a small temporary cell tower during a disaster or when a tower has gone down. They also hope to use it during large events when the pressure on cell towers is higher, so people can still get a strong signal.

Facebook attempted to take this concept to the next level by creating Aquila, a huge solar powered drone that would provide internet to impoverished areas where there was not as much infrastructure in place. Although they have since shelved the project, there is a potential for other companies to develop similar systems in the future when the technology is advanced enough.

Delivery

Amazon has always led the way in online deliveries, and they were the first retailer to develop delivery drones, which have been tested and are set to be in operation soon. This will revolutionize their deliveries and allow them to deliver even faster than they already currently do. But Amazon is not the only company that is looking into drone deliveries and food companies like Dominos Pizza, have also expressed an interest. Some charities are already using drones in Africa to deliver medical supplies to people in need.

There are a lot of questions yet to be answered about the accuracy of delivery, safety, and air traffic, but once these issues are resolved, it’s likely that drone deliveries will become the norm. There is potential for companies, like Deliveroo and UberEats, to adopt similar systems and open up drone delivery to a wide range of different businesses.

Drones as a service 

Although there are a lot of great industrial applications for drones, many companies are not ready to invest in a technology that is still fairly new. In the future, when prices come down further and a lot of the teething problems are ironed out, it is likely that more businesses will be willing to invest in developing their own drone systems. Until then, companies, like Measure, are offering drones as a service for businesses that can use them in some capacity but are not in a position to absorb the cost of establishing their own drone program. They can help to deal with a lot of the operating risks as well, which are a big concern for many businesses.

Drones are not just a fun novelty for hobbyists, they are an important piece of technology that is revolutionizing businesses in a range of different industries. These are some of the most exciting applications right now, but only time will tell how many other industries will become reliant on drone technology.

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