Seven industries that are being transformed by drones

  Last updated May 1, 2020 at 2:37 pm

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From pizza delivery to a flying medical toolbox – drones are taking off in all sorts of industries.


drones_drone in industry_drone use

Drones can be a valuable tool in a wide range of industries. Credit: seksan Mongkhonkhamsao/Getty Images




Why This Matters: Drones can add a level of convenience, efficiency, and safety.




This article is sponsored by Bright-r.


Everyone is getting in on the drone action. They’re not just toys for flying around your suburb spying on neighbours (don’t do this), or for filmmakers getting killer shots for Game of Thrones. A huge range of industries are starting to realise that drones can make their life, and ours, a whole lot easier.


Here’s six industries that are being transformed by drones.


Spying on dangerous wildlife


One of the most important things in conservation is knowing how many animals exist, and how big their habitat is. But, some of these animals are too dangerous for conservationists to get close enough to observe properly. Other times they live in areas that are too dangerous or simply inaccessible for humans.


Take for example the Nile crocodile, Crocodylus niloticus. They’re not too high on a list of animals you want to get up close and personal with (unless you consider yourself with the likes of the Irwin clan). So, scientists have started using drones to keep an eye on them from a safe distance.




Deeper: Drones for conservation




A group of researchers have used drones to monitor the crocodile populations at Lake Nyamathi in the Ndumo Game Reserve in South Africa. The drones were able to get closer to the crocs than researchers (for obvious reasons). And when you’re not freaking out that a croc is about to eat you, your data becomes even more accurate. Drones can also cover more ground, and see the landscape from a different angle than humans. The result was 26 per cent more crocodiles being seen than by human observers. Data like that can be invaluable for conservation efforts.


It’s not only dangerous animals – drones are being used for other conservation projects, like Australia’s own Bettongs.




Saving lives with a flying medical toolbox


When it comes to emergencies, drones can be the difference between life and death. They can be used to monitor what’s happening on the ground to determining the living from the dead.


One of the newest ways they’re helping our emergency services, however, is the Ambulance Drone. Think of it as a compact flying toolbox for ambulance officers and paramedics. The first prototype carries around an Automated Defibrillator (AED).


In Australia, around 20,000 people suffer a heart attack outside of the hospital, and only around 10 per cent survive. When someone goes into cardiac arrest, the first three to five minutes are key to survival. However, often emergency responders can’t get to the scene within this tight time frame.


That’s where the Ambulance Drone can save lives. It can get a lifesaving AED to the scene quickly, and stand watch relaying instructions from a trained operator. Not only does correct usage of the AED jump, so does the person’s chances of survival.




Keeping petroleum production risks low


One of the keys to preventing incidents on oil rigs or gas fields is to have regular inspections. But this needs to be done without putting workers at risk in dangerous and tricky conditions, working at heights, rappelling off edges, and climbing up and down ladders to narrow walkways. Drones can carry out these inspections without any risks to humans.




Also: Eyes in the sky keep bridges safe




Take heat management for example. Unexpected heat spots in a structure are not visible to the eye and could put a worker at risk. Implementing drone surveying using thermal technology has allowed site managers to review the heat distribution in a structure, manage any unintended high temperatures and maintain worker safety.





Video courtesy of Queensland Aerial


Pizza to your door


Delivery drones are very quickly becoming a reality for organisations like Amazon, UPS and even Dominos. That’s right, you can order your pizza and it will be flown to your door. Ok we’re struggling to see the real value of this one.


In late 2016, two pizzas (a peri-peri chicken and a chicken and cranberry) were delivered, by drone, to a customer in Whangaparaoa, north of Auckland, New Zealand. The pizzas were loaded into a regular pizza box and then loaded into another cardboard box before the drone flies it to the customer’s house. The pizza was lowered down by a tow cable before the drone flew back to Dominos.


But is the pizza still hot when it reaches you? And what happens if you order sides, like a garlic bread and drink? Also, no one wants their pizza stuck up a tree when a delivery goes wrong – which let’s face it, will happen. Call us sceptical about this one.




Finding new resources


Drones also prove to be a cost-effective and safe way to carry out aerial, underground and undersea explorations. They’re able to get much closer than helicopter, or airplane, which means they can provide better visuals and data to the operator.


A drone’s function can go beyond imaging the area. Drones equipped with GPS technologies and laser scanners can create a 3D map of prospective sites, including information on landmarks like mountains, rivers, buildings and roads. Engineers can then use these maps when planning for a prospective site.


And for undersea facilities, drones are equally as helpful. Drones can collect water samples from different locations which chemists can then analyse to find if there is a presence of oil products.


Forget fireworks


When fireworks are a bit last century, event planners are turning to drones to wow crowds. Lady Gaga’s slightly mental 2017 Superbowl halftime show featured an army of dancing drones forming a fluttering American flag.


But one of the best uses of drones in entertainment was at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics. 1,218 drones lit up the night sky with displays of a snowboarder, a giant bird of prey in flight, and of course the five interlaced Olympic rings. The light show set a new Guinness World Record for the most drones flown simultaneously.


Intel may have broken the record with a 2,018 drone show in California, but the Pyeongchang show still goes down as one of the best in our eyes.




A flying seed cannon


Our farmers are also getting their wings to transform how they manage their farms.


Drones are being used for soil and field analysis, crop monitoring, and crop spraying. But some farmers are even looking to use drones to help with planting of crops and trees.


One start-up, BioCarbon Engineering, has a fleet of drones that can plant up to 100,000 trees a day. The drone is programmed to fly above their designated zones to collect data about the ground conditions. Then they arm their seed cannon, and fire the seeds in spots where they’re most likely to flourish.


Using drones for planting is not only cheaper, but it’s almost 10 times faster than humans planting by hand. Plus, they can be used in locations that are hard to reach, or during hot times of the year.




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