One of the easiest ways to picture a drone is to imagine a flying robot – with an emphasis on flying more so than on the robot. If you have ever seen remote controlled airplanes flown by hobbyists, you have some idea as to what many of these look like. They are more advanced than what most people are used to – but the general idea is the same.
Also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, can either be flown by remote control or on their own through software systems. Drones are most well known for their use in military applications. They can conduct surveillance or deliver attacks using various weapon systems without putting actual pilots in danger. It is this that has made them so popular with the military. However, they can also be used for a number of other purposes. Any task where a small aircraft operated remotely or independently is fair game for drones.
How does drone technology work?
he drone technology requires two main components – the actual aircraft and the system that controls it. On the aircraft side, drones can be made of extremely lightweight material because they do no have to carry an actual pilot. They can fly at extreme altitudes while utilizing the latest in guidance technology – including GPS (Global Positioning Systems), infra-red cameras and targeting systems for missiles and other weaponry. Some aircraft are small enough to actually be launched into flight by hand, while others require a bit of runway space to become airborne.
The control system can either involve an interface with an actual operator on the ground or an artificial intelligence system that is programmed to operate independently – typically with specific goals in mind.
What are some opportunities and innovative uses of drones?
A number of industries are utilizing drone technology, and many more industries are considering the opportunities presented by drones.
- Military – At the forefront of drone technology, the military uses drones both for reconnaissance and for attacking the enemy.
- Construction – Smithsonian Magazine recently wrote about how architects are experimenting with using drones to build structures. They may one day be used to build skyscrapers.
- Land surveys and environment — Drone can survey the land and take the pictures. It can help you detect deforestations or any illegal logging.
- Rescue – There are a number of groups attempting to use drones for search and rescue operations. Drones make a perfect tool to find those who are lost or missing in all manner of environments, from city streets to the most remote wilderness.
- Agriculture — Drone will be used to spray pesticides on large fields.
- Fun – Plenty of hobbyists are picking up drones to play around with, both by flying remotely and by programming drone AI. It can be used in marriages and parties to capture videos and photographs.
- Logistics — Drone will be used to deliver the parcel, pizzas, letters etc. at short distances
- Journalism – Another group considering using drones is journalists. The ability to collect footage and information and use it for journalism is a real possibility of these small aircraft.
- Sports — Drones are starting to be used in sports photography and cinematography. They were used in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi for filming skiing and snowboarding events.
What is the role of cloud and mobile apps in drone technology?
The drone uses that are currently successful are those that use the technology to gather data – usually through surveying large areas of land using cameras and relatively inexpensive drone technology. The only difficulty with this type of use is that the more land that is surveyed – photographed or recorded – the more data requirements there are. This is why the cloud is so important to drone use. Drones that can upload data to the cloud have unlimited recording capacity.
Apps are also becoming increasingly useful with drones. Various app creators are making apps that allow users to control their own drone – which they can use to take photographs or video, for home security or for child monitoring. Apps and combos of apps and drones together give consumers a number of options for using a drone for fun, for work or for other practical applications.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com