The interest in quadcopter drones is increasing, and bringing about interesting concepts for drone applications. A few years ago, drone technology was very expensive and very unattainable for the average individual. Drones have moved past the hobby realm, and have been put to use for a variety of applications.
Search and Rescue
Search and rescue operations are highly logistics driven, so it is important to obtain a fast overview of the situation, for which drones can provide an aerial view. Searching for lost persons with a drone is faster and cheaper than conventional fixed wing or helicopters. Camera equipped drones can provide high resolution video when searching an area. FPV (first person view) technology allows viewing a search area in real time. When an item of interest, or someone is found, the exact GPS coordinates of the location are available. Accurate information is key for fast emergency response times. The area that a drone can cover in 10 minutes would take an entire group of people hours to cover. Furthermore, a drone can also be used to bring supplies to an unreachable location. A drone could transport communications equipment, medical supplies, or water to a stranded individual.
Similar to search and rescue quadcopter applications, drones can also be used for disaster monitoring. The key advantage that a drone offers for this application is the speed at which it can be deployed. Planes and helicopters need time before they can be deployed, but a drone can be in the air within minutes. A drone can provide a real-time view of the situation in a faster, and more dynamic manner than other resources would allow. Flying about the scene, a drone can capture high definition photos and videos, thereby showing emergency responders what they can’t see from the ground, and allowing them to plan and coordinate a proper response strategy.
Drones have now started to be used to inspect gas, oil, and power plant industrial sites to safeguard these sites, and to ensure proper operations. These inspections, though necessary, can be time consuming, and difficult to complete. Drone inspection is a cost effective, and safe alternative to helicopter inspections in risky locations. With GPS and way point capability, the drone can conduct the inspection mission autonomously, and provide real-time video feedback to the control center, without risk of injury to the inspector.
Air surveillance provides a critical advantage for protecting the public from criminals, or even possible terrorist attacks. The inclusion of an infrared camera on a drone opens the doors for day or night time surveillance. This allows police and security personnel to locate, and track a suspect in total darkness. Helicopters are a valuable resource, but they take time to ready to fly, and are not always available when needed. The simplified advanced navigation and control systems onboard modern drones allows for any security personnel to be quickly taught how to fly, and effectively use a drone. Also, drones allow for immediate air support, and the electric motors provide for discrete and close to silent surveillance.
Surveying and Measuring
Land surveyors are increasingly using drones to augment their resources of measuring instruments. A drone can overly a large area in a short amount of time, reducing the time needed to collect accurate data. Georeferencing digital images acquired by a drone can provide for highly precise data with resolutions of 1A drone can overly a large area in a short amount of time, reducing the time needed to collect accurate data. The digital images acquired by a drone can provide for highly precise data with resolutions of 1.5 cm per pixel possible. The time saved during data acquisition can be better spent analyzing the data. Furthermore, drones allow safer surveying of sites such as mines, unstable slopes, and transport routes.
This is one of the most popular uses of drones using a HD camera. Drones equipped with GPS, barometric sensors, and 3-axis gyros which are used by an advanced flight control system provides make for a very stable platform. Holding accurate position allows you to capture the scene from the perfect viewing angle. Having a gimbal on the camera lets you pan, tilt, and roll the view for smooth and amazing shots. This type of technology was only a few year ago unattainable for the typical video enthusiast. Now with prices of a few only a few hundred dollars, and with a bit of practice, anyone can learn how to make amazing aerial videos. From views of landmarks, forests, stunning vistas, and overhead shots, there are many numerous ways to capture these scenes with drones.
A number of companies have not invested a lot of time and effort in developing drones to deliver products directly to customers. The most well-known of these developments is the Amazon Prime Air service that is being designed to deliver packages to customers within 30 minutes. Google has also invested a lot of time and effort to develop a drone delivery system. Instead of landing with the delivery package, Google envisions a hovering drone that slowly lowers packages using a tether. The drone will have sensors that will sense when the package has touched down, retract the tether, and return to its home base.
Drones delivering packages is not a new thing. In countries such as Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Switzerland, drones are actively being used to deliver medical supplies. So if the technology is available, then why are we not seeing drone delivery services in the US? This is due to the FAA having regulations in place that make using drones for commercial purposes illegal unless you apply for special permission. In 2012 congress asked the FAA to develop regulations that would legalize the use of drones for commercial purposes. However, the FAA did not meet this deadline, and anticipates having the regulations in place by 2016.
Drone Applications Summary
There is strong pressure from the industrial sector to introduce legislation to allow the commercial use of drones given their rapid technological development. Drone applications also offer opportunities in the areas of public safety, and security. Drone advancement is fast developing and is an emerging frontier in aerospace technology.