There’s a Drone for that!

Remember that marketing line for phone’s and PDA’s = “There’s an App for that!”?   The same thing will be said about Drones.

The FAA, probably one of the most conservative entities on the planet estimates that  JUST over the next 5 years, 25 Million drones will be sold in the US.  (Consider the fact that there are about 250 million cars in the US).   Nearly 40% of those will be for commercial purposes.

How many people do you know that own one?  If I were to ask you that question in 5 years, your response will be several.   Most of these people will be flying them recreationaly for fun and photography.  Selfies with drones will abound.

 

But what will all these commercial drones be doing anyway?  Today, commercial drone application is primarily for photography and video.  But this is is changing – and fast.   When we started flying these things over 4 years ago, Photography and video were the goal, but over the last two years, the commercial capabilities of the next decade are starting to materialize.

Basically, non recreational usage falls into two categories –  PUBLIC (Police, fire, government, etc) and CIVIL (civilian).  Here are some of the we see.

  • Data gathering.  A camera records visible – light it’s easy to understand, but at the end of the day, it’s still data.  A huge number of new data gathering technologies are emerging as drone capable.   The general term used out there is Multi Spectral.   A few that you will hear about are:
    • FLIR – Forward Looking InfraRed measures one very specific slice of the spectrum – heat.  Think about the night vision pictures you have seen.
    • Lidar – Light Detection And Ranging.  This technology is similar to radar, except that it uses Laser instead of radio waves.  It’s  perfect for creating very detailed 3 dimensional models.
    • Other Spectral wavelengths.  From BLUE that can do deep water imaging, through green, red and far Infrared that can do vegetation and soil analysis.    This technology will be making a huge impact on farming and conservation/preservation.

 

  • Search and rescue.  Drones will become a standard part of First Responders’ tool kits. Drones will:
    • Help firefighters determine realtime fire spread by using visual and FLIR technology.
    • Help Search & Rescue locate people at night and in very rural areas using FLIR.
    • Transport and drop first aid and communications gear to remote location in minutes.
    • Drop life preservers at great distances in very short periods of time.

 

  • Professional Drone racing.  You may not believe this, but ESPN has BIG plans for professional drone racing!   In March 2016, the World Drone Prix Dubai offered global drone racing pilots $1 million in cash prizes.   These racers are small quadrotors that zoom through obstacle courses at speeds approaching 100mph.  The pilots use goggles to watch through a nose mounted camera on the drone.  The never actually see it with their eyes.

 

  • LAW Enforcement.  Yeah, big brother is coming to a drone near you. But the privacy issues will be addressed when they arrive, and their use of drones will be safer, more flexible, cost effective and productive than the turbine helicopters that they use today.

 

  • Inspection services.  Buildings, powerlines, turbines, bridges, nuclear facilities, dams, etc.. can now be visually and spectrally inspected with unprecedented levels of safety and efficiency.

 

We could go on and on.  But these are a few that come to mind.  What uses do you see in the next few years?

 

 

 

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