In the not-so-distant future drones are going to be so central to our daily lives we’ll wonder how we managed without them. There are so many exciting projects and applications for drones and they’re impacting industries in amazing ways. From mining, agriculture, film and transport, drone technology is creating better, faster and more efficient ways of doing things.
Here are a few of the use cases that I think are going to be amazing:
Reason #1. Beaming the Internet from the Sky
Although it’s an extremely ambitious project, and I’m still not convinced it’s the smartest way to provide the internet, Facebook’s Project Aquila seems to be gaining momentum. Last week Mark Zuckerberg wrote a post about Aquila’s first successful test flight and Facebook’s commercial drone plans. I like the fact that it is going to help rural areas get access to the internet, and I like that it’s going to use clean energy (solar). The idea is that it flies up in a wide spiral during the day while it gathers power then slowly descends in a wide spiral at night.
Reason #2. Agriculture
A new industry is emerging called ‘precision agriculture’ where drones are being used for aerial surveys, creating seeding plans, planting seeds by shooting biodegradable ‘seed pods’ into the ground and monitoring crops by flying over the area daily and providing data to farmers. South African company Greenfly Aviation is pioneering innovative ways to use drones for pest control in the citrus farming industry.
Reason #3. Medical
American company, Zipline has a fully-functional medical supplies delivery operation in Rwanda. Their solution is fixed-wing drone with a package of medical supplies attached to it. Health workers can text their orders to a central distribution point and within minutes their order is dispatched by drone and they receive a confirmation text that it is on its way. Since the drone flies at 100 km’s per hour it’s the fastest way to get delivery in Rwanda, with 30 minutes being the average fulfilment time. Once it arrives at its delivery point, the package is parachuted down and, without stopping, the drone returns to the central distribution point.
Reason #4. Courier delivery
I met Andreas Bicking from DHL at the Commerical UAV Show in London last year. Andreas was presenting the results from DHL’s 3-month research project to test the viability of delivery drones. They tested a DHL “parcelcopter” and “pack station” concept in a remote village in Germany, and took away many learnings on how parcel delivery could be done in a live environment.
This video shows the concept, and it’s beyond cool.
Reason #5. Film
Despite the legislative challenges, drones are being used more and more for filming. The kinds of shots you can get with a drone are spectacular and companies in South Africa like FC Hamman Films are making award-winning commercials using drones. Startups like DroneSnap are making it easy for companies to find drone pilots in Africa for filming or other jobs.
Check out some AMAZING drone footage here:
Reason #6. Mining and Inspection
One of the best commercial drones that I’ve seen is Airobotics, an industrial drone company in Israel. Their solution is a combination of hardware and software engineering that’s been honed to perfection by a talented team of aeronautical engineers and coders. Their product’s real usefulness lies in the fact that the drone is based in a docking station, is completely autonomous (meaning its flown by software as opposed to a pilot) and once a ‘mission’ is programmed it can function almost without any human intervention as it has robotic arms that change the payload (i.e. batteries and cameras). Using a drone for industrial purposes can be far more accurate and quicker than a person, for example, when a drone uses a camera to inspect industrial equipment it can zoom in so far that it can read a serial number off a bolt.
For some cool examples of how Airobotics uses drones in industry, have a look here:
Reason #7. Personal Aviation
By far, my favourite use case for drones is the opportunity for personal aviation.
Yes, I’m talking about flying cars.
Right now, there are more than 15 companies around the world racing to be the first to get a flying car to market. There are loads of challenges to making this a reality, legislation being the biggest hurdle, but it won’t be too long before we’re flying around our cities like the Jetsons. And I, for one, cannot wait!
To hear more about flying cars, check out my talk at Heavy Chef on Thursday 6th July at Primedia (5 Gwen Lane, Sandton) at 18h00. You can get (free) tickets here.
About the author:
Heidi Patmore is a consultant, speaker, entrepreneur, board member and investor who is passionate about technology that is changing the world and how consumers behave, including crypto-currencies, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, drones and the Internet of Things.