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...its something about the future

11 Jan 2017 Simon


What is it about new technology that makes us so frequently fearful? There are so many examples, when the train and the car were first rolled out the outcry was almost deafening. Similarly, in more recent times the concept of payment over the Internet itself originally had very negative press. Rather than dwell on the fear inducing negative possibilities, why not take a look at some of the amazing things that drones can bring to the world. Here are just 10 to start off, and hopefully this is a springboard for some positive PR and the beginnings of us talking about the incredible things that drones already are doing, and will be doing in the future, moving the drone news agenda to a different place.

1. Search & Rescue

Apart from the obvious thermal imaging capabilities to help locate missing people, drones have the ability to survey large areas quickly and cheaply compared to helicopter. Additionally, a drone could potentially be used to drop supplies to an otherwise unreachable location. For example, it might be utilised to lower a walkie-talkie, GPS-locator, medical supplies or water to a stranded victim before rescue crews can extract them.

2. 3D Mapping

Small, lightweight drones can survey landscapes with thousands of digital images that can be stitched together into 3-D maps eg Haitian relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy; farmers seeking to manage far-flung crops and fields; mining companies monitoring changes to open pit mines, and by festivals to monitor crowd size for security reasons, among other uses.

A 3D point cloud depicting a coastal area. Similar to LIDAR, point clouds provide 3D information that can be combined with the air photos for analysis and visualisation.

3. Protecting Wildlife

Kenya deploying drones in all national parks in a bid to tackle poaching.

Drones also lend possibilities in the fight against poaching. With funding from Google, WWF are launching surveillance drones this year in skies over Africa, where poaching is driving species like rhinos towards extinction and is fuelling a massive illegal trade in wildlife items like horns and ivory.

4. Disaster Relief

Drones are already being used in humanitarian response around the world. Last year they proved a crucial tool for aid workers in the aftermath of the devastating Nepal earthquake. Officials and aid workers rushed there, following the earthquake but struggled against stormy weather, poor roads and a shortage of manpower to get assistance to the needy. Drones identifying flooded areas, obstructed roads, population movements, and damaged infrastructure were incredibly helpful. The possibilities for drones in an emergency are extensive.

5. Agriculture/Herding

Many of the latest agriculture drones come with flight planning software.

Agriculture is one of the most promising areas for drone usage. They allow farmers to monitor crops from the sky, using various types of cameras and image-processing software to determine where fields need attention. Besides just counting plants, infrared and thermal cameras can monitor irrigation levels to determine if soil or plants are too dry or overwatered. Eventually larger drones can also be outfitted for crop-spraying. Drones are also particularly effective for herding animals and have already been used successfully to do so.

6. Lifeguarding

Last year in Chile a drone carried a float successfully and speedily to save the life of a person stranded at sea. Furthermore a British company has now invented the world's first lifeguard drone, which could replace human lifesavers at beaches.

The drones, carrying cameras and rubber rings, can be sent out by guards from the shore, and have the ability to rescue drowning holiday makers much quicker than humans, who'd have to battle through waves.

7. Road traffic monitoring

Drones can and already do this as well as providing important footage in the event of accidents. Dutch company Aerialtronics recently supplied drones to get a better grasp on traffic jams during a busy festival, which attracted more than 80,000 people. The drones provided assistance, especially on highways where there was only extra traffic due to this special event. Traffic coordinators used a live-stream camera connection to redirect traffic along a faster route.

8. Construction/Surveying

Drones are increasingly complementing other sources of survey data and information in the construction and civil engineering industries. Information gathered can assist the construction & engineering process from pre-planning to marketing a property or commercial site. They can inspect damage to power lines and perform routine power line inspections. They can also be used to survey areas for pipelines.

Footage of construction work on the Foster + Partners designed Apple 2 Campus 2 in California  

9. Journalism

Drones are destined to change the world of television, news reporting and sports forever – there is already much more drone footage on TV than you may think - but drones are easy to control, providing many views and angles previously inconvenient to shoot, especially aerial shots that were restricted to expensive helicopters or large filming crews. Additionally, they can follow live action as it happens, from start to finish

10. Insurance

Imagine insurance claims being assessed by drone rather than by a human being. This is the future of the insurance industry. From a car crash to a catastrophe, drones can be sent out to take inventory of the damages for the insured. It has the potential to be faster and more efficient than previously.