Thursday, September 11, 2014

Top Nine Commercial Uses for Drones

Drones could very well be the next new technology wave. Already, drone technology is being used by various government entities, but what's interesting are the various businesses interested in harnessing this technology for commercial use. (See related article.) And with drones, just push a button and watch them fly; no remotes are necessary because they are guided by GPS!

So what are some practical commercial uses for drone technology? Here are nine ideas in the works:
  1. Delivery. Drones could allow businesses to deliver products to customers without having to send (or even hire) a driver. From medicine to pizza and beer. 
  2. Internet service. Some were puzzled when Facebook moved to acquire Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones. The potential sale could further Mark Zuckerburg’s initiative, which aims to provide wireless Internet to remote parts of the world. The solar-drones, which can reportedly stay airborne for five years, would act as movable wireless access points. 
  3. News. Drones equipped with cameras can fly lower and into smaller areas than larger manned aircraft. Viewers could one day get a look into the driver’s side window of a speeding car on the local news. 
  4. Photography and film. Commercial photography has a lot to gain from legal unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Real estate agents could contract with a drone-savvy photographer to take aerial shots of a property and festival organizers could conduct accurate head-counts using overhead photos. In addition, ad agencies and film directors could shoot more commercials and feature films using drones, as drones could replace the more expensive helicopter pilots.
  5. Agriculture. Although farming isn’t usually associated with cutting-edge technology, the agricultural industry could reap the benefits of drones. Large-scale farmers might utilize aerial views to monitor crop growth. 
  6. Population growth. Drones could be used to survey and document wildlife such as counting birds, for example. The electric-powered aircraft is so quiet that it can be flown over a bird colony, and the birds won’t even know it’s there. 
  7. Search and rescue. Drone search and rescue missions have already been adopted by some law enforcement groups across the country. Since they operate without pilots, drones can survey and act in dangerous situations without risk to life and limb. Also, by using heat-sensing equipment, victims can be found more quickly. 
  8. Inspection. Since 2003, drones have been patrolling offshore oil fields on a regular basis. Even at night, the drone camera reveals the presence of thieves and potential kidnappers, who often try to reach the rigs using small boats. Oil leaks and slicks also show up clearly in infrared, and by detecting them early, the drone has saved oil companies millions in fines, which are imposed automatically for such leaks. 
  9. 3-D Mapping. Drones can survey landscapes and take thousands of digital images that can be stitched together into 3-D maps. The military produce similar maps, using satellites, but this emerging UAV technology can put that capability in the hands of small companies and individuals, which can then be customized and used for a seemingly endless variety of applications. Pix4D’s software creates 3-D maps from drone images. This technology has already been widely applied—for Haitian relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy, by farmers seeking to manage far-flung crops and fields, and by mining companies monitoring changes to open pit mines.

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