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Industrial Application – The Future of Drones

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Most people are familiar with large military drones, like the Reaper, or personal camera drones, like DJI’s Phantom. But drones aren’t just for the US army or filming your cousin’s wedding. Non-military government bodies and businesses are using drones to spray pesticides, control fires, and transport packages. Even though drones are a nascent technology, their widespread application is profoundly impacting industries worldwide. Let’s see how they’re being applied, their shortcomings, and how they might improve in the future.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Drones are certainly having an impact in agriculture. Farmers in the vanguard are already using them to protect their plants and increase crop yields. Agricultural drones still can’t sense their environment very well or coordinate with other drones, but the technology is promising. Precision agriculture means the right amount of pesticide or fertilizer – exactly where it’s needed.

DJI Agras MG-1 agricutlture drone

Impressed by the performance of drones in disaster relief, governments around the world are eager to get their hands on drones of their own. With live video streaming, firefighting drones can precisely deliver vital emergency supplies to flooded areas. One drone being tested right drops ping-pong sized balls that catch fire as they land – and can be used to set deliberate backfires.

Firefighter drone

Drones are also being used in electric power industry. Typically, field technicians manually inspect power lines, but this is costly, inefficient, and potentially dangerous. Now, with HD video transmission systems, companies no longer need to use helicopters or send workers up towers to identify potential issues. Drones allow them to spot defects from the ground. To increase market penetration, drone developers still need to increase their transmission distances and extend battery lives.

power lines inspection

AI and VR

Virtual reality has really taken off in 2016. Known in the drone scene as FPV (first person view), controlling a drone with VR goggles is common among enthusiasts. VR headsets also can also enable 3D live viewing, which could assist in power line inspection or firefighting.

VR goggles

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic in the tech industry. You can find it already in DJI’s Phantom 4. The drone can track people, as well as detect and map environments to avoid objects and fly around them. Further development of this technology will certainly be beneficial for various industries. For example, a team of emergency rescuers could employ search-and-rescue drones instead of dogs to search for injured mountain climbers more efficiently.

Illegal parking inspection using drone

 

Environment perception and radar technology also has industrial applications. With DJI’s Guidence system and Intel technology, a Matrice 100 could detect illegal parking in cities. Though merely a concept, it gives a glimpse into the future. With improved radars and optical sensors, drones in the future could explore uncharted caves or perform automated inspections, all while hovering and moving safely.

Picture6

When it comes to endurance, one can picture a graphene-based or hydrogen-powered drone. Lightweight and dense, drones with graphene batteries or mini hydrogen fuel cells could be as small as a mobile phone and track, detect, or avoid obstacles. Multi-drone cooperation and cooperative swarm taskss can also be achieved.

mini drone

Once drones start working in teams, who knows what they could accomplish!

The Future

How exciting could it be to escape from your room via VR goggles and a mini drone? It could happen.

Drones will be used – even more – to observe and protect wildlife.

Drones could be used to clean skyscrapers – and even carry out repairs like replacing street bulbs.

You can also envisage that a drone, like a flying JARVIS, becomes a personal assistant: “Boss, it will rain at 10:00 this morning. An umbrella is on the shelf to your left.”

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