Drone Applications in the Industry
Are you looking to expand your Service Offerings as a Drone Pilot? Follow us down the rabbit hole – you might just find yourself a new niche and service branch for your clients.
In this section, we look at the functional definition of a Drone and their addressable market, as well as look to highlight how their capabilities can be leveraged in commercial business operations.
Recent data has clearly shown that the future of drones will be shaped by their practical, commercial applications.
The presence of drones in business operations has widened across different industries in the last few years due to their ability to drive efficiency and provide data gathering and analytics.
What is a Drone?
A Drone is an aircraft without the presence of a human pilot aboard, also referred to as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
A UAV is defined as a “powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely”.
In recent years, drones have begun to transform various commercial industries as they can fly beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS), maximise production, reduce cost and risk rating, ensure site safety, security and regulatory compliance, and protect the human workforce in times of a pandemic.
They can also be used for consumer-related missions like package delivery and critical deliveries of health supplies.
Below are some of the industries and commercial sectors that use drones/UAV for commercial their business operations, and other commercial sectors that can look to gain benefit from their incorporation.
You may already be familiar with our social media series regarding Drone usage and their applications in agriculture.
The are numerous examples of how Drones may assist farmers in the regular monitoring of their herds and crops.
For instance, drones can be essential tools in the monitoring of herd populations and their general health status; giving insight into movements, behaviours, early detection of the more visible hallmarks of disease and the routes of their transmission. Further accessories / add-ons / additions to Drone devices can offer suitable options for remote-friendly herding methods.
And for those wily members of the group, or adept harry-houdinis, Drone technology can offer a quick-response mechanism for tracking herd members down so you can return them to their group in real time, and address any boundary-breaches in their wake.
Less and less is the need for the scrambling of rovers or wide-spread, multi-targeted search efforts.
In the spring months we welcome lambing, foaling and calving. And for those not in barns, and instead active across the acres, Drones can offer a quick survey of the new stock additions.
And when it comes to crops, we know combinations of ever changing climate conditions, pests, and geological events can lead to health & development fluctuations. Thus, monitoring tools are always welcome.
So too, Drones can be used for the design of seed-planting patterns and the generation of a wide range of data types with many applications. For example, nitrogen-level management.
In Ecological Monitoring & Environmental Conservation Efforts:
Less subtly obvious than with agricultural applications, Drones can be essential to these fields of study in somewhat similar manners to their agricultural partners. Similar to farmers, ecologists can utilise drone technologies to provide them updates on the ecological environments or subjects under their purview.
Discrete Drone technologies allow for less invasive forms of animal population monitoring and tracking when compared to the more traditional methods of study.
In this way you can gain key insights into migrational tracking, habitat monitoring, the performance of set conservation efforts and the identification of population hazards such as floods or landslides which may lead to occurrences like allopatric speciation.
Furthermore, this technology can make scientific study more seamless, permitting access to vegetation or animal populations which are bedded in hard to reach locations and topographies.
In Natural Disaster Tracking & Environmental Damage Analysis:
This follows quite nicely on from discussions above surrounding Drone use in ecological monitoring.
Drone technologies and survey methodologies can be combined and utilised in such a way as to capture emerging natural disaster events, track active events, and offer detailed analysis post-event.
Drone surveillance can be used as initial reporting tool, giving insights into event severity, event coverage and spread, identifying vulnerable or at-risk populations mid event and in providing on-going surveillance of event-based developments & range of fall out.
For governmental response efforts this can be an indispensable way to help strategise, construct and coordinate emergency responses, target relief efforts, and pin-point those areas which fall within the categories of ‘risk’ zoning.
This method is also cheaper and can be more time effective than other air-borne alternatives, such as helicopters or light aircraft.
Post-event, drones can be used to quickly scope and assess damage, presenting officials with indicative data concerning km spreads, event longevity and the scope of environmental impact upon fauna and animal populace.
Forest fires for instance have become a prevalent conversation in the global media narrative.
Co-ordinated drone monitoring efforts at the point of identification of a forest fire could help determine the proper modes for fire-handling, and help safeguard the lives of fire fighters on the ground.
Certain species of forest fauna have root systems which can facilitate the transfer of blaze events from one location to the next through these systems (“root fire”) and on the sub terrain level. These pose the ability to produce new events, and can greatly labour emergency efforts if un-checked.
Drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras can offer tracking of root fires to ensure emergency providers don’t get caught in flare-ups, and help give them a real-time roadmap of where to focus their efforts the most.
In Weather Monitoring:
One of the beauties surrounding Drone technology is the ‘here / there’ paradigm. Pilots have the ability to fix their locations in one place, and receive real-time updates on the status of another location.
This is particularly useful in the motoring of weather patterns, and the track & tracing of storm front developments. Additional tools such as pressure and electro-static indicators can be mobilised with ease and more importantly, interchanged between multiple locations within a network.
Live-stream capabilities of certain drone models furthermore permit the recoding and reporting on weather-based developments, allowing news and weather agencies alike a unique intercommunication and data-sharing tool.
In Aviation & Corporate Compliance:
Compliance is a significant challenge for all technological-framed industries, and the aviation industry in particular is faced with a series of stringent guidelines and standards which they must uphold.
Regulatory and inspection authorities are behemoths in the industry and require airlines not only to conduct in-house inspections of their planes prior to the disembark of each and every flight, but so too require more rigorous inspections in hour-specified increments.
In response to this, Drone technologies are already being utilised to perform external aircraft inspections, mapping fleets and in providing up-close monitoring of hull micro-fractures and the general effects of the exposure to atmospheric pressures and variable weather conditions.
And further afield within the Energy Market and the sub-fields of oil & gas, we cannot escape the notion that even today, fossil fuels remain a key energy source in the world.
Inspection of the infrastructure used to refine, extract, and transport oil and gas is an important part of the industry and often needed to ensure compliance with standards and regulatory bodies.
With the use of drones, much of this inspection work can be done safely and remotely. Using specialised thermal sensors, some drones can find leaks faster than a human inspector, while onboard high-resolution cameras enable some issues to be diagnosed remotely.
Whilst another area where drones have shown promise is in setting up new sites to produce energy. Drones that gather topographic detail and survey areas can be used to help oil & gas companies identify new drill sites, collect samples, or they can be used by solar utilities to design configurations for new arrays.
In Structural Surveys:
The above follows into the use of Drone in the performance of general structural surveys.
Inspections & surveys are terms that can collectively encompass all actions, including site visits, monitoring of emissions and checks of internal reports and follow-up documents, verification of self-monitoring, checking of the techniques used and adequacy of the environmental management of a particular installation, alongside general safeguarding to human health and interests.
Competent authorities require regular structural surveys to be carried and documented across all commercial fields, and this is clearly where Drones come into their owns.
Drone technologies can be utilised in remote asbestos surveys for example, in order to protect the interests, safeguard the health concerns and reduce hazard exposure to humans operating in proximity to buildings still possessing this material.
In cooling towers, drones can be utilised to identify key damage indicators to identify wear and tear, and scale the heights of structures it may logistically cumbersome to do manually.
In Real Estate:
Drones have been beneficial in capturing pictures of high-value properties in more dynamic ways, illustrating that even the Real Estate industry can be upended and improved upon with the implementation of Drone-based technologies.
By 2016, the Real Estate industry was already reported to be one of the most active industries when it came to the adoption of emergent drone technologies. Drones can be a useful tool for understanding how to better visually outfit a property listing with records of a property’s viewing aspects, amenities, and unique features.
For Property Developers in the business of producing large-scale or community benefitting projects, Drones pilots can assist in a number of manners.
In the early planning & development stages, visual surveys achieved by Drones can be utilised to help architects to better conceptualise the spaces they are working with, and identify nuances in topography and real estate geography.
You can gain valuable insight into the panoramic viewing aspect of each floor level of the proposed construction later in the design process, and during the construction phase navigate the intricacies of the developments skeletal structure to ensure everything is going to plan.
And when utilised in conjunction with 3D mapping technologies, Drone captured images of project white spaces can render live impressions of how these are to manifest in the future, and what they will appear like to the naked eye; arguably essential in the marketing efforts.
See the work of one our Pilots here in achieving just this.
In providing Security Services:
As an add-on the suite of Real Estate-based services Drones can offer, we find ourselves in the realm of security services.
On a private level, Drone surveillance can be a no-brainer response to the monitoring of the security of your home, and the integrity of your property boundaries; particularly when looking to at wider-acreage set ups.
On a commercial level we are already seeing this usage being exercised in the on-going surveillance and monitoring of sensitive, largely developed and / or restricted areas. And in the field of warfare and strategic planning, drones are permitting for remote assessments and the ability to conduct certain activities without risking the lives of key personnel.
In providing Wireless Internet Access & Telecommunications;
Telecommunication towers/cell sites are inspected frequently to ensure service reliability and longevity.
In the aftermath of a natural disaster (such as storms, hurricanes, etc.) drones can use to inspect telecommunication towers – a process that would have been too dangerous and time-consuming to do manually by human inspectors.
Another application for drones in this field, is one that has received much media attention in the months previous with the use of strategically networked drones for internet connectivity. This has generated a push in the development of drones suited for long-term deployments, and to which are catered to existing in variable atmospheric conditions.
Drones can help to provide more efficient healthcare avenues to patients from a distance or whilst mobile.
In the future, miniature, interior-friendly Drones could be utilised to deliver medicine to patient bedsides upon direct release and delivery from the pharmacy, thus eliminating certain requirements for human input and re-structuring medical distribution and delivery cycles.
This would lead to more rapid and the opportune for less error prone administration of medications.
Medical drones can deliver items such as drugs, serum and small medical devices quickly and to remote areas. Where retailers are still testing drones for the delivery of large packages to their customers, medical drones are already being used in developing countries.
Because medical supplies are often small and lightweight, drones available today have the capabilities required to exercise this userability tool.
The time-critical nature of medical supplies is even driving the development of a regulatory framework that will allow autonomous medical drones to fly long distances to bring life-saving supplies to patients.
Tourism is one of the most competitive industries out there. If you are party to or operating within this industry, it most likely means your focus surrounds the stimulation and hold in the attraction to a particular sight, beach resort, hotel, restaurant, castle, national park or any other touristic POI.
One of the best and most effective ways to attract potential visitors’ attention, stimulate and convince them to visit is by visualising your point of interest on video.
Drones are one of the newest and best solutions for presenting tourism attractions on aerial-perspective videography and photography.
Flying over your location, drones can take high quality images and HD videos, intensifying emotions by displaying a particularly special view and unusual perspective. Aerial photography and videography with piloted aerial vehicles are ideal for the travel and tourism industries.
Stately homes & hotels nestled into beautiful landscapes, beaches, rivers and forests that can be hard to show off to their best extent from the ground come to life in an aerial photograph or video.
The same applies to venues such as wedding premises, sports clubs, golf courses and even large cruise ships. Drones have already succeeded in revolutionising aerial tourism photography with incredible footage being captured in places that can’t be accessed by foot.
An article on commercial drones would not be complete without a section on the basic requirements and regulations that govern the use of drones for work find out more in our commercial drones rules and regulations article here.
In Advertising & Live Entertainment Settings:
Earlier within this article, we briefly touched upon the utility of Drone technologies in the mapping and tracking of construction efforts in real estate, and helping people to conceptualise up-coming builds.
Although this adds new marketing tools to the Real Estate tool-kit, Drones have quite a significant offering to give to the field of Advertising as a whole. With their ability to manage light-weight asset mobilisation & delivery, Drones can provide one-off advertising stunts to really impact your target market.
For instance, during major sporting events and those breaks typically dedicated to advertising reels, Drones can be mobilised with a variety packages showcasing product concepts, imagery, tag-lines or even dropping product samples.
And for those with the know how, configuration tools and inventory of Drones to hand, the mass mobilisation of drone devices can be a highly impressionistic way of raising brand awareness or providing a visual edge to entertainment settings.
Live concerts, and public holiday displays already have a grounded history in utilising drones in highly coordinated, synchronised displays to build atmosphere and evoke emotion in their audiences (i.e light & laser shows and complex projections fields).
Not only this, but if we look to live sporting, Drone pilots can offer a previously un-seen insight into the progress of events and focus on the status of individual participants.
The competitive fields of F1, motor-cross, horse racing, endurance, or other extreme sports, with particular lean on those which occur over long distances, all seek to gain benefit from the use of drone tech.
Drone pilots have been for a while assumed with hobbyists and light entertainment, but if anything this article, amongst others has proven the versatility of Drone technology and the importance of their inclusion in the commercial sphere.
But with more recent developments, Drones have now come to occupy a duality of roles within the gaming and entertainment industry, both as gaming components and as aids in the development of new gaming concepts.
When paired with Augmented Reality (VR) technologies we not only explore new concepts and means to guide our Drones through contracted projects and tasks, but so expose ourselves to a new industry of remote gaming.
Remote Drone racing and drone-battling reminiscent in feel to the old-school Robot Wars are gaming options now being explored and offered by certain Companies in the field.
And as for developers working on upcoming releases, Drones have offered a niche way to utilise detailed mapping programmes to compile and structure hyper-realistic maps as the foreground to new game environments.