Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, also known as drones, are often seen as exclusive military technology. While the military utilizes this technology, there are many other potential applications that can be made possible by drones in the future. Below are seven emerging drone applications are discussed. Applications include; recreational use, parcel delivery, sports science, search and rescue, wildlife monitoring, law enforcement, and farming. An overview containing the promise of the application is provided, along with possible issues that may emerge with the implementation of the new technology.
According to a 2003 study in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, Light-aircraft crashes are the leading killer of wildlife biologists (Averett, 2014). Low altitude plane and helicopter flights, which are required for wildlife observation, accounted for more than 2/3 of these deaths. With the introduction of drones into this field, the number of deaths due to crashes may decrease significantly.
Drones are not only safer for the biologists, but also for the animals being observed as well. Alongside the safety upgrades, drones provide biologists fewer operating costs, and more efficient and precise observations. For example, a drone can provide a more up-close view than a team of biologists in a helicopter.
Many animals that come into contact with drones are aware of the device observing them. Some animals may attack the drones; others may not react physically. While these animals are not reacting in a physical way, they are still reacting. In a 2015 study conducted in Minnesota, scientists flew drones over black bears and measured their heart rates. In almost all of the 17 trials that bears heart rates increased (Ditmer et al., 2015).
Recreation: GoPro Karma
GoPro, which gets its name from ‘on the go professional equipment’, is a company focused on capturing action on video (“The History of GoPro,” 2016). While the cameras were marketed towards thrill seekers, they have grown to become mainstream with even the tamest individuals. GoPro has recently introduced their newest product, Karma, a recreational drone that uses the company’s camera(s) to capture video.
Karma comes housed in a backpack that is ready be taken anywhere you go. The device’s remote control is designed for amateur pilots in the sense that it is easy for a first time flyer to pick up and use almost instinctively. In doing this, GoPro is hoping to capture a segment of the population that has never considered drones as a hobby and make them customers – just like they did with their cameras.
While drones have become more popular and well known as a hobby, there is still a stigma attached to the activity. The general population is not overly accepting of random citizens potentially filming them or their families. While Karma may open the flood gates for the drone market, it may potentially be too much too soon and cause more drone backlash leading to an influx of regulations and laws.
Parcel Delivery: Amazon Prime Air
In 2005 Amazon.com first launched as an online bookstore. Today the site is currently the world’s largest internet based retailer, selling everything from dish soap to organic groceries. In 2013 Amazon announced their newest innovation, package delivery by drones.
On the service information page, Amazon states that Prime Air will be able to deliver products that weigh up to five pounds. Amazon states that by using drones that will be able to safely get packages to the customer in 30 minutes or less. Amazon’s plan is to offer Prime Air to its customers in the near future after testing has been done and safety requirements have been met (“Amazon Prime Air,” 2015).
While drones may be an efficient way to deliver small items, there are some hurdles Amazon will have to overcome in order to implement this idea into their business. The first issue is theft. Although Amazon states their drones will have onboard GPS and cameras, there is still potential for thieves taking the drones (before or after package delivery) and parting the device out – much like a car thief. Secondly, while the drones will have no problems delivering to residential homes, reaching individuals who dwell in apartment buildings may be problem that is difficult to impossible to overcome.
In May of 2014, ESPN released an article titles ‘Eyes in the Sports Sky’. This article examined UCLA’s football team and their use of drones throughout practice. The team’s head football coach Jim Mora explained some of the advantages using a drone throughout practice has, stating, “When it hovers above the line of scrimmage, you can get a real clear perspective of spacing between your offensive linemen, or differences in depth of the rush lanes of your defensive linemen,” (Lavigne, 2014).
This new on-field perspective gives the coaching staff and players information and data that has never been available before. This data can be then analyzed to help solve problems that once seemed insurmountable. Techniques, play schemes, and movements that once gave coaches headaches could be eliminated with ease thanks to the use of drones.
While there is no NCAA rule prohibiting the use of drones in practices, the guidelines issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are somewhat unclear. ESPN stated, “the agency could not say whether specific instances of using drones in sports would be legal, saying who flies a drone and for what purpose before it decides whether the usage complies with law,” (Lavigne, 2014). If the FAA and NCAA come to an agreement regarding who can and cannot operate the drones and when they may operate them, then this may become a viable resource for the sports world.
While police departments all across the United States are rolling out body cameras for their officers to wear, cities in Mexico have started using drones to patrol high-crime areas. These drones can fly at low altitudes for up to 30 minutes and are near noiseless – giving authorities an advantage when dealing with extremely violent offenders in areas run by cartels. These drones are also equipped with night vision, meaning that their usefulness is not limited to just day hours.
In an interview, Tijuana Chief of Police Alejandro Lares stated that one unmanned drone is equivalent to 20 police officers patrolling (Bond, 2014). If this is true, not only does it mean that more work can be done, but that work can be done effectively. Theoretically, this also means that fewer officers will be put into dangerous situations, possibly reducing deaths of officers and citizens alike. U.S. lawmakers are examining Mexico’s use of drones in their law enforcement at the moment to decide whether it is a viable option, but many problems need to be addressed before implementation is a possibility.
Privacy is the main concern with this application. While the focus of these law enforcing drones are on possible or past offenders, law abiding citizens will be surveyed as well. Congress and the FAA will have to incorporate any existing laws regarding drones and surveillance, as well as create new laws to protect the rights of the citizens.
It is predicted by many in the drone industry that the agriculture use of drones will comprise the majority of the market (Anderson, 2014). The main reason for farmers to use drones is to get an aerial view of their land. The drones take multiple images of the fields at the farmer’s desired height which can then be stitched together using software. These images are then used to improve land management and yield.
Older methods of obtaining aerial footage of fields include using satellite images or hiring a pilot to man an aircraft along with a photographer to capture the photos. Not only do these methods offer inferior results, but they are also exponentially more expensive. Farmers can now purchase a drone, a camera, and software for less than $1000 and be able to gather critical information, increasing their profits for years to come.
While the agriculture industry has become more technologically centered throughout the recent years, utilizing drones may be a challenge to many farmers. While flying the drone may not be an issue for many farmhands, some may find it difficult. Along with this, using the software to take the images and effectively map out fields may also be another challenge – one that might require hiring an outside source, increasing costs.
Search and Rescue
Manned search and rescue missions are often hindered by logistical issues. These problems may be as crucial as not knowing the exact location of a victim, or knowing the location but not knowing how to properly navigate to the victim and make the rescue. While maps and GPS provide an abundance of information, sometimes more is needed. This is where drones come in.
Dragan Fly is a company focused on providing public safety drones. Their drones provide the user real-time, situational, and time-sensitive information. Dragan Fly’s website states that their drones are able to provide this crucial information due to the high-definition cameras used in their units. The cameras have the capability to scan locations three-dimensionally and provide three-dimensional models, as well as sense heat (www.draganfly.com/public-safety).
Search and rescue teams rely on human knowledge, instincts, and actions. While there is a large room for error on the human side of these life-saving missions, depending on drones may increase the number of possible mistakes. If teams start to count on unmanned aerial vehicles too much, even a mistake as small as not charging a battery could be the difference between life and death.
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Bond, Mark. “MultiBrief: Law Enforcement Experimenting with Surveillance Drones.” MultiBrief: Law Enforcement Experimenting with Surveillance Drones. N.p., 5 June 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.
Ditmer, Mark A., John B. Vincent, Leland K. Werden, Jessie C. Tanner, Timothy G. Laske, Paul A. Iaizzo, David L. Garshelis, and John R. Fieberg. “Bears Show a Physiological but Limited Behavioral Response to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.” Current Biology 25.17 (2015): 2278-283. Web.
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Lavigne, Paula. “OTL: Eyes in the Sports Sky.” ESPN.com. N.p., 29 May 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.
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