Advances in smart hardware technology have fueled the development of drones, which are playing an increasingly bigger role in our everyday world. Drones are not only allowing us to explore the unknown, but also, more and more, they’re helping us out with industrial applications, such as pesticide spraying, fire control and package transportation. The following is a rundown of a few significant aspects of the commercial future of this amazing technology.
Agriculture. The agricultural industry has benefited significantly from drone tech -particularly when it comes to crop maintenance. When compared to conventional agricultural machinery, drones can spray crops much more quickly and efficiently. Still, farming applications are far from perfect, with issues related to public perception of environmental impact and difficulties with coordinating the operation of multiple drones.
Disaster Relief. Drones have huge potential in disaster-relief applications. For example, they can safely provide aerial footage of wil fires and can illuminate the disaster zone in major floods – allowing first responders to deliver supplies with precision. Impressed by this potential, governments around the world are eager to implement disaster-response drone programs.
However, the tech is still catching up. For example, as it stands, many firefighting drones are still simple adaptations of basic aerial drones and may not be able to live up to the rugged requirements of wildfire containment. Fortunately, the practical applications are there, and new innovations are emerging every day.Energy Utilities. Drones are being used in the electric power industry to a greater extent all the time: taking over once-tedious and dangerous jobs such as powerline spot check inspections. Equipped with HD video, utility drones allow inspectors to quickly check the status of the lines from the ground and thus eliminate the dangers of pole climbing. Still, the utilities industry continues to report problems with control distance and short battery life. However, innovations such as grapheme batteries and mini hydrogen fuel cells are allowing researchers to develop lighter-weight, higher-powered drones that could soon solve the latter problem.Smart Hardware. With the explosion in popularity of virtual reality (VR) headsets, this year is being hailed as the take-off year for VR. The combination of aerial drone footage and VR is taking this immersive experience to the next level. But even more importantly, this combination of technology is giving firefighters and inspectors a 3D perspective for problem-solving.
Artificial Intelligence. The recently released DJI Phantom 4 is able to track people and detect and map the environment below in order to intelligently avoid and fly around objects. In the future, integrated artificial intelligence could enable a smart drone as small as a mobile phone to support obstacle avoidance, tracking and detection. It could even allow emergency rescuers to deploy search-and-rescue drone teams rather than rely on human or dog teams to search for injured and lost individuals.Improved Environmental Perception. Stereo vision applied to 3D environment analysis and radar-detection technology are another two incredible drone adaptations available today. Recently, a DJI M100 demo showed how these drones, equipped with specialized equipment, could easily detect illegal parking in urban environments.
With improved environment-perception capabilities, drones in the future will be able to hover at precise positions and safely explore uncharted parts of the world and even engage in practical endeavors like street light repair.
Although drone tech is still in its infancy, the vast potential of this aerial technology is plain to see. Whether it allows us to explore the ancient pyramids like never before, helps protect our world’s wildlife, allows us to safely clean and maintain our tallest skyscrapers, or provides us with our own “flying JARVIS” robots who can check the weather and help us find the quickest route to work, drone tech promises to usher in a bright and interesting future.
Yunhong Liu is CEO and founder of WeTalkUAV.com.