February 23, 2016
Drones: Aerial Maintenance
When people think of drones, they might imagine the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle developed by the military. Others might think of the small quad-copters that some kids get for their birthday and subsequently destroy when they accidentally fly it through the front window of their house. Few realize the potential these drones have for aiding businesses, scientists and emergency personnel with performing their jobs in a safer, more efficient way. Farmers have seen the potential for using drones in their work of maintaining extensive acreage of farmland. Drones have also been used for fighting forest fires, performing search and rescue operations, and helping after humanitarian crises. The future of drones seems promising, and they have an increasing variety of applications for everyday use.
Farming and Agriculture
Farmers may use drones in various ways. A drone can be a cost-effective way to check crops, land, and farming equipment. Sending people out to physically monitor land and equipment can be an expensive and time-consuming process for farmers. Using drones is often faster and less expensive. A farmer with a drone can send it out to check on fields of corn to assess the health of the crops. The drone can utilize special thermal imaging sensors to detect moisture levels in the soil, which can be helpful for assessing drought conditions. Drone sensors can even detect issues in crops that require fertilization. Armed with this information, farmers can apply specific types of fertilizer to targeted areas. Farmers can also use drones to apply insecticides over crops without utilizing people for this process.
Drones have a number of benefits for fighting forest fires. Instead of sending manned aircraft into dangerous areas, drones can fly over fires to provide important surveillance. Fire areas often have limited vision due to smoke or darkness. Drones are ideal in these situations because cameras can cut through the darkness to provide needed information. UAVs can also assist with moving supplies and dropping water over a blaze.
Search and Rescue
Search and rescue operations have begun to use UAVs to find missing persons. Searching for missing people by air has traditionally involved manned airplanes and helicopters. Drones provide increased access to dangerous areas with less risk and expense. High-resolution video cameras can survey areas, sending the video back to professionals who watch the recordings in real time. One UAV can search a large area in a fraction of the time it would take humans to cover the same area. Drones also have infrared technology that can detect heat given off by people, which can help with finding survivors in a disaster.
Security and Law Enforcement
Law enforcement has begun using drones, as they can be an effective tool for surveillance. A drone equipped with facial recognition software and infrared technology could help law enforcement with locating fugitives. A drone equipped with a camera could secretly monitor and record conversations to capture incriminating evidence. Drones can also assist with tracking vehicles over a large area of land.
Tracking storms can be dangerous for humans. Scientists seeking to research thunderstorms and tornadoes have been unable to access the centers of these storms to learn what causes them and how they form. However, drones can fly directly into the midst of storms to measure temperature, air pressure, wind speed, and humidity levels. Scientists are currently attempting to work with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to receive clearance for this research.
Humanitarian efforts often involve providing food, water, medicine, and supplies to people in a disaster such as an earthquake, tsunami, typhoon, or fire. Conditions can often be dangerous for human flight, but drones can assist with humanitarian aid. Drones flying over an area can capture footage of the conditions to enable people to assess them. Cameras can also provide information about the specific location of survivors. Larger drones can even transport supplies to remote areas.
Professional Sporting Events
FPV (First Person View) Drone Racing is a new competitive racing sport. Expert pilots will maneuver custom built quad-copter drones through three dimensional courses at up to 120 miles per hour. Future events will take place in places that range from abandoned factories in New York City to the Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins (NFL).