Drones – also known as unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) – are fun and they shoot amazing aerial videos, but that's not all drone technology can offer to humanity. Drones come in many sizes and shapes and they are perfectly suited for carrying packages or conducting aerial inspections. All around the world organisations, companies and governments have started using drones for various purposes. Amazon, DHL, UPS and NASA have invested in their own drone fleets for delivery, security surveillance and other purposes. In light of the latest developments in the industry, drones have proven that they are more than flying cameras.
You have probably seen aerial photographs taken by drones and heard about drone racing, but from transporting people to beaming down Internet access, these flying robots have become a multi-purpose tool that offers the possibility of reimagining the fundamental ways humanity works. While most people are still freaking out about Amazon's plan to use drones for shipping and delivery, UAVs can do much more than just move packages.
Aerial drone photography is easier to implement in terms of price and planning when compared to the next alternative – helicopters. That's why the first commercial use of drones was to shoot videos of real estate. Using flying cameras, real estate photographers are producing stunning shots of landscapes and recording videos of residences in ways never imagined before. The laws in the USA and UK currently allow commercial, for-profit use of drones in real estate under registration and limited access.
Drone fishing may sound ridiculous, but a few months ago a video captured anglers catching a giant tuna after using a drone to place their bait 100 meters off a beach. Drone enthusiasts are creative and resourceful people, to say the least. Since the release of that drone fishing video, many people have followed this trend and there's now a drone manufactured just for fishing called the AeroKontiki.
Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg has plans to bring wireless Internet to undeveloped countries around the world using the Aquila drone. WiFi drone Aquila uses solar charging panels and laser systems to beam down Internet access from 90,000 feet, covering a radius of 50 miles on the ground. The Aquila drone will be able to stay up in the air for three months and is able to deliver data at speeds of 10 Gbps. On June 28, 2016, Facebook completed its first test flight of the Aquila with success and Zuckerberg said, "Eventually, our goal is to have a fleet of Aquilas flying together at 60,000 feet, communicating with each other with lasers and staying aloft for months at a time."
Drones can be equipped with all kinds of cameras and sensors. Using heat sensors, farmers use drones to monitor crops and animals. Using various cameras, drones have been used for inspecting offshore oil rigs, commercial jets, wind turbines and power lines. Human investigations are only able to go so far as people are often limited when it comes to heights, and drones can see much farther than the human eye. Companies and organisations are increasingly using drones for inspections as they face the challenges of having humans conduct inspections.
This has to be one of the coolest ways a drone has ever been used. Freefly produces large drones that are waterproof and can carry 20 pounds. These drones are manufactured for the media but instead of carrying a camera, their latest drone, ALTA 8, was outfitted with a rope to pull a surfer. The drone costs $18,000 but definitely introduces a new way for surfers that doesn't depend on good waves.
Fighting a raging fire is one of the toughest jobs in the public service world. Firefighters are often forced to rush into a blaze, having no idea of the scope of it. Lately, the use of drones by fire departments and police agencies has grown across the globe. An aerial view from a drone help firefighters figure out the size of the fire and develop tactical methods accordingly.
The idea of a New York skyscrapers swarming with tiny drones might seem like sci-fi right now, but with the latest innovations in precision and accuracy of GPS technology, it could happen in the near future. We have yet to see the changes these little flying machines will bring as the tool of the 21st century.