10 Unusual Uses for Drones

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You are likely aware that there are many uses for drones outside of film and video production, but you may be surprised how many and how varied the uses are. And the number is growing fast. In fact, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), optimal integration of drones in the U.S. will result in the creation of about 100,000 jobs and an effect of $82 billion on the economy by 2025, not all of which will be in the film industry.

The following is a list of 10 uncommon uses for drones, picked mainly at random from a large variety.

1. Amazon Prime Air

In the works for already a few years, Amazon’s Prime Air service plans to use drones to deliver customer orders, such as a pair of sneakers, in 30 minutes or less. These drones are equipped with sensors that allow them to avoid obstacles along the way, land the package safely next to a customer’s home or other location, and return back to base. They’re intended for non-urban areas. Several different types of drones will be used, depending on delivery variables. One of the designs is about the size of 20 DJI Phantoms and looks like a plane, but goes airborne vertically like a quadcopter. The latest progress made with the service has been in the UK, where, in July of 2016, Amazon announced that it will begin testing delivery in the near future.

2. Agriculture—better wines with drones

Drones have been used in the agriculture industry in Japan for about 30 years, spraying pesticides and performing other tasks, with the result that about one third of all rice consumed in Japanese homes today has been worked on by drones. About 10 days of traditional work is done in about two days, thanks to these drones.

The first such drone used in Japan was developed by motorcycle maker Yamaha Motors, but the idea has spread all over the world and adapted to many aspects of agriculture. One such endeavor is by the California-based company Vine Rangers, which is trying to use drones with infrared cameras to see what the eye cannot in the wine-making process. Using a combination of drones and software, they test for diseases and analyze stress, yield, quality, leaf respiration, and more, to improve grapes and wine.

3. Aerial construction drones 

There are those who believe that, in the near future, drones will be working side-by-side with humans in laying building foundations and performing other similar tasks. And there are those who are already experimenting with such tasks. For example, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is engaged in a collaboration called The Aerial Construction Project, the objective of which is to “investigate and develop methods and techniques for robotic aerial construction.” The team has already built a 24-foot rope bridge between two structures using common-size quadcopters (which were tuned for the job). This bridge successfully withstood the weight of an adult person walking across the center rope from one structure to the other. A previous collaboration involving the same university resulted in a live exhibition of four quadcopters building a 20-foot tall tower out of 1,500 foam bricks.

As for something already in place, US company Kespry has armies of drones equipped with advanced software that are capable of helping construction companies track progress, conduct surveys, generate maps, generate 3D models with millions of data points, calculate volume, get precise elevation data and contour lines, plan road projects, and much more, and all mostly via autonomous flights.

4. Ambulance drone

Made at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, the Ambulance Drone aims to solve a problem that has been the cause of death in many sudden medical emergencies, such as cardiac arrest. It aims to get to the scene in those first few minutes that often are the most important, until the real ambulance arrives. Designed with video and two-way audio communication ability, and compartments with advanced first-aid kits, the Ambulance Drone is meant to reach the victim and instruct someone nearby what to do with the first-aid equipment. The plan for the Ambulance Drone is to integrate into existing ambulance response networks. The project currently lacks commercial backing and faces many other obstacles, as do most drone ventures.

5. Elios, the industrial inspection drone

Created by Flyability, and winner of the first-ever UAE Drones for Good award, Elios is a collision-tolerant drone capable of accessing cluttered spaces, such as where complex piping is laid inside building walls, to gather hard-to-reach data. Elios features sub-millimeter resolution, onboard LEDs for visibility in darkness, and other advanced technologies, but what makes it capable of doing its job is a flexible outer cage that enables it to bounce off of obstacles like a beach ball, and thereby not collide and break down. But at its core, Elios is simply a flying drone. Already more than five years in development, Elios aims to increase worker safety, reduce inspection costs, and lower downtime. When the final touches are placed, Elios will successfully inspect boilers, recovery steam generators, above-ground tanks, pressure vessels, ship holds, tunnels, furnaces, and much more.

6. Window-cleaning drones

Also a contestant in the UAE Drones for Good competition, having reached the semi-finals in 2015, German company Window Cleaning Drones hopes to automate the washing of glass facades and roofs using drones, even at high altitudes. But they aren’t the only ones. There are several such enterprises, such as The Sullivan 5000, in the U.K.

7. Internet access drones

On a more expensive note, Google and Facebook have, for couple of years now, been invested in separate drone technologies with the intention of spreading Internet access to pretty much the entire world. Technically, Google isn’t invested in a drone technology but, rather, a balloon technology called Project Loon; but Facebook’s money is in actual drones, solar powered and meant to fly more than 10 miles above ground to provide Internet access to areas below it.

8. Wildlife conservation drones

In an interesting case of drone meets bold creativity, conservationists have recently found a way to lure the California condor back to its natural habitat. For some time now, this endangered species has been moving in the opposite direction of its habitat, in following a trail of dead cows to feed on. In response, forward-thinking conservationists have placed a trail of dead cows in the proper direction as bait for the condor to return. But these cows are spaced miles apart, and the only way to alert the condor of their presence is to entice nearby birds to circle the air above the carrion. Here’s where the drone comes in. These conservationists set some drones airborne in a circular motion, attracting the nearby birds. Once the birds arrive in large-enough numbers, the condor takes notice and heads toward them. And this goes on at every checkpoint.

9. Drones for Real Estate

The National Association of Realtors has released a statement claiming that as of August 29th of 2016, real estate professionals in the US will be able to use drones for aerial photography of properties. There have already been instances of drones used for this purpose in the US, and they’re actively being used in some other countries, such as Australia. But the NAR statement comes with an FAQ list detailing the rules and regulations. Aerial photography can greatly benefit real estate marketing of large mansions and surrounding areas. In fact, real estate agents will likely be investing thousands of dollars into professional video production of drone-captured videos. 

10. Walt Disney Light Show Drones

Perhaps more so than anywhere else, Disney theme park light shows are considered something close to out of this world. With the intent of improving these shows even more, in February of 2016, Disney filed a patent (not its first) for a drone-powered projection technology. In short, the drones would beam down imagery onto a projection assembly (which may include a wide-angle reflector). Imagine a larger-than-life Mickey Mouse projected in front of you from a drone.

10+. Film and Video

With such creative advances in drone technology, including autonomous flights, isn’t there a good chance that drones will play a much larger role in the film and video world? For sure. With improvements in drones and video-capture quality, drones might even transform the film and video world. We might even see a system where a drone will capture an entire scene totally autonomously, with all the right pans and tilts preprogrammed in advance. Perhaps sooner than later, B&H will be selling more drones than tripods, sliders, and dollies combined. Perhaps you’ll turn in your shoulder rig for a drone.

To read more about the full line of drones available at B&H, click here.

7 Comments

Drones can be used for some Great things, but we have to safe guard our right's and privacy. We can't let the GOV. or the kid next door spy on us. I have had a RC Quad for 7 years and do not fly over people or homes or will I let some kid with a drone fly over my home looking at my kids or wife. We all should feel the same way.

Giving up freedom for security will leave you with out neither!

Fly safe and take care.

En Chile se está comenzando a reunir gente para que en caso de algún desastre, como por ejemplo un terremoto, los drones sean utilizados como buscadores de personas, animales y en general de ayuda para la comunidad, recuerden que Chile es un país con muchos temblores y tsunamis, por lo que esto es novedoso acá, también existen las carreras de drones y una federación que está participando para el mundial que se realizará en Hawai. Esto es independiente de que muchos tenemos drones y participamos de reuniones semanales para compartir experiencias, utilidades, precauciones y normas relativas al uso de los drones, en Chile la ley es muy estricta y tienes que estar certificado uno como piloto y el drone debe tener al menos un paracaidas.

el uso es ILIMITADO

We also use them to train Falcons to fly high in falconry. We attach a lure with a food reward that hangs down on a length of cord so the falcon doesn't get to close to the drone. Falcon goes up and grabs the lure which is attached to a small parachute which causes some drag and makes them want to return to earth close by. They get the reward and some good exercise. 

For those seniors who live ia a house but can no longer climb a ladder, how about a drone with claws that can clean leaves off an evestrough.

That's an interesting idea. And it while it was up there it could provide a way for the homeowner to visually inspect the roof for any storm damage, etc.

George-- how stupid I feel now that you mentioned this. I've had drones for a couple of years and never thought to use one to inspect the one gutter on my house which is just out of reach-- I've been too busy using it for things photographic!!! 

I recently saw an ad for a company which will do exactly that - inspect your roof, rain gutters, etc. What we need around here is a drone that will chase the pigeons away. Or else a few more falcons.

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