There’s something of a love-hate relationship with drones, but they are set to improve everyday life in many ways over the next decade. Unmanned aircraft will be used in everything from disaster relief to parcel delivery, and it’s hard to predict how they will change industries like agriculture and security services.
Improvements in technology have been the driving force in the drone revolution. They contain an incredible amount of processing power. To maintain a precise position in the sky, a drone’s onboard computer system makes minute adjustments to the speed of its rotors in fractions of a second. Sensors and artificial intelligence mean advanced unmanned aircraft can avoid collisions and navigate without the need for a pilot.
Embracing this technology means drones are being used in hundreds of innovative ways. Examples include the following.
1) Fast food delivery.
Stories or drones delivering pizzas were largely publicity stunts at first, but this is now actually happening. A Mexican food chain in Australia is experimenting with deliveries to remote areas of the country. Companies like Amazon and Alphabet in the U.S are experimenting the delivery of small packages using drones.
2) Patrols for the fishing industry.
Fishing is one of the industries where unmanned aircraft are making a real difference. They are being used to follow movements of shoals of fish so that fleets of fishing boats can be directed to the best locations. Drones are also being used to monitor stocks to help reduce overfishing. In the future, unmanned aircraft could be used to patrol areas where fishing is restricted, and to help ensure fleets don’t operate beyond their borders.
3) Replacing helicopters in television and movie production.
Aerial footage has been used in movies for decades, and it adds real drama and impact. Traditionally, helicopters have carried cameramen to capture aerial shots, but drones are now taking over. Unmanned aircraft are cheaper and often safer as an alternative to helicopters. Restrictions on use of drones in built-up areas are being lifted to allow for their use in reporting news on a selective basis.
4) Shark patrols.
Some conservationists hope that drone shark patrols will replace controversial nets in the future. Pilot schemes are underway to spot sharks approaching beaches where surfers and swimmers may be in danger. Artificial intelligence has been developed to identify the shape of a shark and differentiate between potential predators and harmless dolphins or shoals of fish. Drones have also been fitted with flotation devices they can drop to a swimmer in trouble.
5) Revolutionizing the oil and gas industry.
The energy sector has always been quick to embrace new technology, and this is certainly the case with drones. They are being used in a variety of ways to reduce costs, speed up exploration and improve safety. Drones are great tools for surveying remote areas and inspecting pipelines, oil rigs, and other infrastructure. Infrared cameras mounted on unmanned aircraft are revolutionizing oil and gas exploration.
6) Delivering medicine to remote areas.
African countries are leading the field of delivering vaccines and other medicines using drones. Unmanned aircraft are ideal vehicles for carrying small packages to remote areas when the time is critical. Technology has been developed to keep blood products at low temperatures during transit on a drone.
7) Providing broadband access to remote areas.
Having access to the internet has become essential in the digital age. Some rural regions have little or no access to broadband networks, and drones are part of the solution to this. Facebook is exploring the idea of deploying solar-powered drones and balloons to deliver the Internet to every corner of the planet.
The drone revolution has really only just begun, but a variety of industries have already come to rely on them.