As a technology rapidly advancing, drones are frequently being tested as innovative solutions to business and societal issues. Although many of these applications are rife with safety and regulatory restrictions, several are likely to be implemented in the coming years as policy is implemented to regulate drone applications. There are seven primary emerging drone applications that provide business and/or society concrete solutions to a menagerie of issues.
As the world population continues to grow, projections predict that by 2050, agricultural output must increase by approximately seventy percent in order to adequately feed the population (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2009). One method currently enacted by farmers across the U.S. is utilizing drones to provide high quality aerial photography of fields. This photography can reveal problems such as unequal irrigation, variations in soil quality and even pest and fungal infestations (Anderson, 2014). Furthermore, drones can employ infrared imaging to denote health differences in plants that would otherwise be invisible to the human eye. This influx of data facilitates better crop management; precious resources may be allocated more efficiently and problems can be detected and solutions implemented faster than ever to minimize crop damage. Other than regulatory issues which are decreasing in restrictions, this represents one of the most deploy-able drone applications in the market.
2017 projections for the U.S. entertainment industry indicate expected total earnings of $632.09 billion. As an industry juggernaut, the profitability of new and innovative entertainment sources is immense. One such new source of entertainment is drone racing. Although hampered by video lag times, drone racing is becoming popular as advanced drones capable of flight speeds of seventy miles per hour are being produced (Murphy, 2016). Currently, races are being held in abandoned locations with live video being streamed to viewers over the internet. There is legitimate capacity for drone racing to become a televised event; in fact, many viewers of the preliminary races using drone mounted cameras describe the experience as being akin to sci-fi action scenes in popular movies such as Star Wars. Drone racing represents a unique business opportunity for investors as the fledgling sport begins to grow. However, the risks to investors are still large; market tests need to be done in order to determine public receptivity to such a sport. Furthermore, bugs need to be fixed in terms of the hd video on the drones.
Among the many problems plaguing wildlife on earth, poaching continues to rob nations of endangered species. One innovative approach to preventing poaching is the surveillance of popular poaching areas via drones. Drones are able to quickly and more efficiently scan areas for poaching vehicles than a human sweep of the area (Holland, 2015). This is in part due to the ability for drones to use infrared imaging to detect heat signatures. In addition to poaching prevention, drones are also able to effectively scan areas for wildlife using the same technology; this in turn facilitates the accurate and efficient measurement of population sizes and geographic range. Cost is the major impediment to wide scale deployment as well as questions regarding the degree of disturbance that drones cause wildlife (Holland, 2015).
Approximately half of the world does not have an internet connection (Internet World Stats, 2016). On June 28th, 2016, Facebook took a huge step towards bring internet access to the rest of the world by launching Aquilla, the first ever drone capable of beaming internet to people via laser communication to base stations on the ground. The drone is solar powered and is capable of beaming internet via lasers at 10 Gbps (Newton, 2016). The benefits of internet connection are profound: easier access to information means better and more affordable education which can ameliorate issues in public health and literacy. Facebook encountered many challenges such as the drone’s weight impeding flight time, the high cost of deployment and the lackluster performance of the solar panels on the drone (external batteries had to be used to maintain flight)
The high definition video and photography able to be gathered by drones provides exciting opportunities for those in many fields of business, especially those in contracting and safety inspection (Boecher, 2015). Drones are capable of providing video and photos at angles that were previously inaccessible. This in turn provides builders with better information to use in construction and the ability to minimize mistakes. Furthermore, drone reconnaissance of structures provides accurate and faster inspections as well as a reduced safety hazard for inspectors tasked with examining potentially dangerous structures. Challenges to the deployment of these drones exist in the form of regulatory restrictions.
The ability to prevent a disease outbreak would be a monumental leap in public health. Drones are assisting in this endeavor by emerging technologies capable of mosquito collection. As one of the primary proliferates of disease, mosquitos contribute to the deaths of approximately 1 million people each year (Center for Disease Control, 2016). A drone developed by Microsoft is capable of collecting mosquitoes to be analyzed by scientists (Gallagher, 2015). These analyses will then hopefully be able to predict the presence of a disease and the likelihood of proliferation. Challenges impeding development is the fact that the drones will collect insects other than mosquitos and separation of the insects is difficult.
While still in infancy, drones are able to effectively monitor traffic conditions for large and busy sections of highway. Drones are also able to detect and inform the proper authorities as to traffic accidents, and even emit via radio broadcast an alert to other drivers notifying them to use a different route or plan extra time for commutes. Challenges to this drone application exist in many regulations concerning privacy and technological in terms of producing drones able to fly several hours to monitor traffic.