The commercial use of drones is becoming more popular. This paper that I wrote at the Center for Information and Communication Sciences, gives some real world examples of commercial uses of drones.
To view PDF version, use this link: Drone Innovations
One of the “hot new areas” in tech applications is the development and practical use of drones beyond the military for commercial purposes. Some uses of drone technology have evolved into industries such as healthcare and education. This research paper is going to talk more about safety and regulatory issues, practical applications, opportunity for innovation, and further industry possibilities.
The Meriam-Webb Dictionary describes drones as a “an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers” (drones, n.d.). Based off this definition, drones aren’t relatively new. In wars, such as Vietnam and World War II, ‘drones’ were used for many reasons. The reasons for and the evolution of drones over the years has changed drastically, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has claimed that “sUAS” (small unmanned aircraft system) have been supplemented to help helicopters in support of public safety operations, news reporting, and even real estate marketing.
Henry H. Perritt, Jr. and Eliot O. Sprague state that “microdrones provide a new capability for inexpensive, close-in, aerial activities. They will carve a new sphere for aviation support, thereby benefiting industries that have not had aviation support available to them at a cost they could afford” (Perritt, Jr. & Sprague, 2014). In comparison to microdrones, there are larger drones that are not yet available. These drones are called machodrones, and are still in the developmental phase because of the regulatory requirements.
Safety and Regulatory Rules
In front of the regulations and rules concerning drones is the Federal Aviation Administration. This past year, the FAA had a press conference that included many topics. Of those topics discussed, a big one to note is the new opportunities for business and government drone usage. As stated by Les Dorr, contact for FAA, ‘these new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives” (Dorr & Duquette, 2016). Although these regulations are discussing drones in general, it is important to note that ‘microdrones’ weighing less than 55 pounds are the only ones being affected by the new regulation.
Bloomberg writer, Justin Bachman, wrote an article called Drones are the New Threat to Airline Safety. This articles discusses issues and concerns with pilots. In his article, Bachman gives an incident report of ‘Close Encounters and Sightings’ of drones while pilots were flying. Tim Canoll, president of the Air Line Pilots Association says “your imagination can run wild with the problems of hitting hard metal objects and 200 mph”. The most recent incident that occurred that was close to a collision with a drone was in March, when a drone flew 200 feet above an Airbus A380. Incidents like this, along with countless others, have raised flags about how to educate and inform commercial drone hobbyist ” (Bachman, 2016).
An article published by Margi Murphy and Christina Mercer gives us a sense of companies that are utilizing drones in 2016 in the United Kingdom. In the article, there are 19 companies taking advantage of the things that drones can do (Murphy, 2016). These 19 companies are from a wide range of industries such as Agriculture, Telecommunications, Law Enforcement, Entertainment and even Transportation.
Amazon Prime Air
According to the article, Amazon announced that it will partner with the British government to test small delivery drones. Along with this announcement, Amazon has advertised for a ‘drone operator’ with 5+ years relevant work experience. Another recent article by David Pogue, a writer at Yahoo! Tech, sits down with Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global public policy. Some key takeaways from the article are that Amazon is actually designing and building their own drones, they believe that after demonstrating the safety of the system, the regulations will quickly follow, and a proposition that describes the kind of airspace to separate drones from aircrafts (Pogue, 2016).
Qualcomm Technologies has announced that the company will be joining forces with AT&T to create a new drone project that will test the cellular networks on drones. “Snapdragon Flight brings together photography, navigation, and communication technologies in a compact and efficient package that fits on a single board” (Qualcomm Technologies, n.d.). The development Snapdragon Flight is to help developers support a wide range of applications for drones ranging from aerial photography to filming live sporting events.
United Parcel Service
United Parcel Service has announced that it has begun testing drones to make commercial deliveries to remote locations, working with CyPhy Works. UPS has performed a mock delivery to send urgent medical care from Massachusetts to island off the Atlantic coast. Mark Wallace, senior vice president for global engineering and sustainability for UPS, said that “UPS and a drone startup, Zipline, are testing the use of drones to deliver blood, vaccines, and other medical supplies to rural areas in Rwanda as an example of the kind of humanitarian drone delivery initiatives UPS is currently researching” (Vanian, 2016).
Moya Greene, chief executive of Royal Mail, said that “modern technology requires less manpower and could improve the service”. An article in the Telegraph, a newspaper in the United Kingdom, was written by Tim Wallace explaining the thoughts of drone usage by Royal Mail (Tim, 2015).
Shannon Pettypiece, a writer for Bloomberg Technology, discusses the topic of Wal-Mart utilizing drones in its warehouses. Although the distribution-center drone is still in testing, Shekar Natarajan, vice president for emerging technology at Wal-Mart, says that the drones will be done with testing within six to nine months. Pettypiece says that “The company also wants to use drones to assist with tracking merchandise, such as taking inventory of trailers outside its distribution centers, according to the FAA filing” (Pettypiece, 2016).
NASA is discussing a drone traffic management system with the FAA. There have been a couple of drone’s test utilizing the air traffic control test, and a final test will be in 2019, after which recommendations will be made for a national solution for drones (Lozano, 2015).
ORBIS project, which will see the railways in the UK digitized with 3D cameras and visualized online to analyze maintenance and field worker distribution. Network Rail would like to use drones instead of aerial cameras to get a better picture of the transport networks (Murphy, 2016).
In conclusion, there is a lot of research and development going into drones. As you can see, many companies see the advantages, as well as the disadvantages, for drones. Although the use of commercial drones won’t have for a couple of years, companies are looking ahead to possible innovation opportunities.
- Bachman, J. (2016, April 4). Drones Are the New Threat to Airline Safety. Retrieved from Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-04/drones-are-the-new-threat-to-airline-safety
- Drones. (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Retrievedfrom http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/communication
- Dorr, L., & Duquette, A. (2016, June 21). Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved from Press Release – DOT and FAA Finalize Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems: http://www.faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=20515&_sm_byp=iVVFbscT507j4Msn
- Lozano, S. (2015, November 20). Developing New Standards of Drone Operations. Retrieved from NASA Aeronautics: http://www.nasa.gov/ames/image-feature/developing-new-standards-of-drone-operations
- Murphy, M. (2016, July 26). 16 UK companies Using Drones. Retrieved from TechWorld: http://www.techworld.com/picture-gallery/personal-tech/best-uses-of-drones-in-business-3605145-3605145/
- Perritt, Jr., H. H., & Sprague, O. E. (2014, May). Jet Law. Retrieved from Drones: http://www.jetlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/PerrittSprague_Final.pdf
- Pettypiece, S. (2016, June 2). Wal-Mart Is Trying Out Drones in Its Warehouses. Retrieved from Bloomberg Technology: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-02/wal-mart-s-distribution-center-drone-hints-at-automation-plans
- Pogue, D. (2016, January 18). Exclusive: Amazon Reveals Details About Its Crazy Drone Delivery Program. Retrieved from Yahoo! Tech: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/exclusive-amazon-reveals-details-about-1343951725436982.html
- Qualcomm Technologies. (n.d.). Snapdragon Flight. Retrieved from Qualcomm: Developer Network: https://developer.qualcomm.com/hardware/snapdragon-flight
- Tim, W. (2015, November 09). Royal Mail Wants to Use Drones and Driverless Trucks. Retrieved from The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/11984099/Royal-Mail-wants-to-use-drones-and-driverless-trucks.html
- Vanian, J. (2016, October 3). Here’s What UPS Finds Interesting About Drones. Retrieved from Fortune: http://fortune.com/2016/10/03/ups-drones-delivery-testing/