Personal Drones have been all the rage for the past few years, as toys, and primarily as new devices for capturing amazing aerial photography. As the technology has matured and become more mainstream, a number of practical and very interesting uses of Drone technology have emerged.
Here are 10 of the most interesting uses for drones as of 2015. We feel this is really only the tip of the iceberg as people begin to integrate drone technology more and more into their jobs and daily lives.
Real Estate Photography
One of the very first mainstream uses for personal drones and quadcopters was by real estate agents as a marketing tool for selling homes. For years, real estate agents relied on photos to show along side home listings. Photos alone never really gave potential buyers a real feel for what the home looked like or felt like. Photos were very one dimensional.
To solve this issue, “virtual walkthroughs” and even some video began to become popular. Virtual Walkthroughs never really caught on, but video began to become a powerful marketing and sales tool for agents. In fact, MLS listings with video receive 400% more activity than non-video listings.
Using Quadcopters, agents can now film video of difficult to see elements of a home, demonstrate more vividly the scenic view, and surrounding landscapes of a home, and even visually show the proximity of the home to neighboring homes, and neighborhood amenities such as pools, tennis courts, and playgrounds.
As a result, use of quadcopters in real estate marketing is exploding, and many photographers are being hired by agents do to their specialized skills in aerial photography of homes, a new an emerging job market.
Here’s a really great example:
Drones have been all over the news recently for being too close to aircraft, and as a result drones are something most airlines don’t want near their planes, at least while they’re in the air. However, EasyJet and an number of other airlines are evaluating use of drones, and specifically quadcopters, as tools to speed up aircraft inspections.
Today, airplane inspections are done by trained engineers on the ground and at the aircraft. Inspecting the underside is easy, but the sides and tops can prove difficult and require platforms that have to be moved into place. As a result, the inspections take time, something airlines don’t have a lot of.
Airlines are evaluating quadcopters equipped with high definition cameras to speed up this process. The quads can fly all around the planes, taking HD photos and videos that the engineer can then review instead of physically having to inspect the plane. This offers a number of benefits:
- Quadcopters can view all aspects of the planes without the need for special platforms
- Quadcopters can get up close and personal with difficult to reach areas of the aircraft
- Engineers can sit in centralized remote areas and review the photos and video.
EasyJet was the pioneer for this new use of Drone technology, but other airline companies are jumping on the bandwagon as well. This also has the benefit of offering a new job skill or even a new job to the airline companies and employees in the form of drone pilots and experts.
Drones have been getting a great deal of negative attention lately. It seems like almost daily there is news report of personal quadcopters being used to spy on people, invade privacy, injuring people, or near crashes with commercial aircraft. There are many positive uses for drones though, and their recent new use in Search and Rescue Missions is a big one.
Drones have had specialized and limited use search and rescue for a few years now. Drones can:
- Fly safely fly low the ground
- Maneuver and fly into difficult to access areas
- Provide aerial video and photos for a significantly less amount of money than traditional helicopters.
Like full-size aircraft, they can carry High Definition cameras, and even thermal imaging equipment to help find people and animals. As a result of their benefits, Drones are being used more and more frequently as part of search and rescue missions.
Recently, due to the extreme flooding in Texas, Drone use for search and rescue received a great deal of media attention as quadcopters were used to search for flood victims.
Explore Lava Lakes
Scientists have been interested in studying volcanos for a long time primarily to be able to better predict eruptions, but also test for minerals in and around the lava, study gases emitting from the volcano, and also to learn more about the Earth’s core.
Of course the big problem with studying volcanos is that it’s difficult to do because of the extreme temperatures and toxic gases. Heat suits have solved a large portion of this problem, but they are difficult to move around in. Getting aerial views of volcanos along with measures was near impossible as standard aircraft just can’t fly close enough. Queue the drones.
While still somewhat of a risky adventure, drones have been recently used to take aerial photography and air samples of various volcanos around the world. This has allowed scientists to get additional data, and also to create virtual models of the volcanos craters. Virtual models allow scientists to study changes over time in the crater, which assist with predicting eruptions.
Not only is it great science, but provides some awesome looking video as well! Of course a few drones were lost during the filming due to high temperatures, and air PH that corrodes electronics.
A rapidly growing use for drones in the area of security and surveillance. Drones allow people to quick reach and see areas (often difficult to see areas) without actually having to be there, and at low risk. Drones have recently been used for:
- Anti poaching efforts
- Building security
- Border patrol
- Prison surveillance
- Monitoring and Surveillance of large crowds at protests and gatherings
- Road traffic monitoring and accident surveillance
- Police and private investigations
Of course these are only a few, the possibilities here are nearly endless. But why drones over traditional surveillance and security technologies? Here are just a few reasons:
- Drones are quiet – Their small electric motors and blades are much quieter than traditional helicopters and aircraft
- Drones are small, more difficult to see, and less distracting
- They can be flown into areas and get closer than traditional aircraft
- Provide no risk to human life in more dangerous situations.
- Significantly less costly
- Quick to deploy
- Easy to camouflage for various conditions
Using drones for security and surveillance is becoming so popular, that new companies are being created on a daily basis specializing in this area. This will be a new industry, and open up significant financial and job opportunities for people.
Drones, and specifically quadcopters are finding their way into the construction business in a number of different ways. These include:
- Show clients an arial view of construction status
- Monitoring of employees
- and even security, as we’ve mentioned above.
These are just the start. Some companies are even using quadcopters to capture aerial views of constructions sites, and using that in the 3D modeling done by the architect. This is not only a great construction tool, but also a powerful marketing tool when trying to sell a job or approach. One construction company that is using quadcopter aerial photography as their primary marketing tool is already seeing an increase in business as a result, and even has clients coming to them for that very reason. Using smaller quadcopters and much less expensive than using standard aerial photography companies.
One group of researchers in Georgia received a grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation to explore the use of drones and quadcopters in highway and road construction. They’ve found that the main benefits invoke inspections and quality control. Quadcopters can be used, for example, to count the number of markers on highways and to be sure guardrails are correctly placed and long enough. For bridge inspections, quadcopters provide a much more efficient and quality inspection process.
Drones are beginning to see more and more use in mining operations worldwide. Drones are being deployed to handle jobs that are arduous or dangerous to workers.
Similar to other industries, drones are proving very valuable in doing inspections. Drones are replacing the use of physical human inspection and expensive to operate helicopters. This includes routine inspections of things like power lines, roads, and equipment.
To help keep mine employees safe, drones are also being used to inspect for dangerous areas such as pit walls and mine entrances, especially when the area is known to be dangerous and considered unsafe for mine workers.
Drones are also be used for mapping and modeling, similar to other constructions jobs. Both modeling and mapping are critical to mining companies, and the use of drones in this area provide much more accurate maps and models and are far less expensive and than current popular methods.
Equipped with special equipment, drones can also be used to search for minerals. Mining companies are expiring equipping quadcopters with Multi-spectral imagery devices that allow companies to find ore by flying drones around various areas and within existing mine pits.
News and sports
While drones don’t seem to have a very popular public opinion (mainly due to negative press), they are going to change the way you watch television, especially sports. Football, Golf, Nascar, and other outdoor (and some indoor) sports are seeing huge growth in the use of drones for aerial photography. Drones provide unique views and perspectives not available from fixed or rail cameras. One huge benefit is that they can follow-along with the action.
A new drone on the market will actually follow athletes and film them up close using stabilizing cameras.
Drones equipped with cameras are also changing the way we see news. Both the press themselves and private hobbyists are sending quacopters in to late breaking news scenes to catch the action. This includes crimes in progress, fires, traffic jams and much more. Some of the key advantages to quadcopters over traditional news helicopters are:
- Less expensive to operate
- Able to get closer to the action
- Less noise (important when using audio)
- More maneuverable
- Can be deployed much more quickly
Drones are already being extensively in both news and sports and you’ll see their usage continue to grow, and will literally change the way you watch TV.