In my last post I touched on a variety of commercial and humanitarian applications for drone technology, areas where drones are already making an impact and how we can get results for a fraction of the cost of predrone operations. Today I will go a little more indepth.
Last time I discussed how drones are helping the oil and gas industry work more safely, accurately and economically by mapping geological formations with a precision that maximizes the efficiency of drilling operations. But petroleum is not the only buried treasure out there. Drones mounted with ground penetrating radar units can map out subsurface features over a wide territory to locate minerals, water or archeological ruins in a fraction of the time that a survey team would require.
Going back aboveground, drones are being used by conservationists to provide realtime data on the changing environment, such as tracking poachers in the dense rainforests of the Amazon, or following fruit bats (potential carriers of the Ebola virus) in the Congo. Search and rescue teams seek the most precious treasure of all – human lives. A drone can scan a field or navigate a forest much faster than a search team, and when equipped with infrared detectors can operate at night to help locate stranded hikers, missing children or wandering seniors.
Drones’ ability to allow people to view remote and/or dangerous locations make them ideal for monitoring long stretches of pipeline, for example, reducing the need for personnel and vehicles, and reducing the time it takes to get a response team to a position where a drone has spotted damage or unauthorized intrusion. Similar applications exist in agriculture, where drones can provide visual data on crop conditions, soil erosion, drainage estimates, spacing issues, herd locations and pest populations. The property and casualty insurance industry can collect similar information since drones can deliver damage reports from disaster area even before it’s safe to send in human teams.
Drones can also help to limit damage caused by natural disasters, since they can provide early warning and continuous monitoring of extreme weather conditions. And while sending pilots into a tornado to study its development and behavior is unacceptably risky, drones are making those flights and gathering data that will one day help us to predict tornado formation and movement more accurately.
In these days that we call “the information age,” data of any kind is a valuable commodity, and drone technology is multiplying our ability to get better data from more sources, faster than ever before. But if you think that drones are only good for acquiring information, tune in to my next post for applications that are going to radically alter practically every business model on the planet.