UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle), the precursor to drones, were originally developed for the military. They were used as early as World War I to collect intelligence and aerial images from the sky, all without a human pilot aboard. But today, the use of drones has become a significant part of civilian and consumer life, with drones being used to perfect selfies for the ‘gram, and not to mention almost no wedding video escaping the classic introductory drone shot. But drones are being used for much more than just pretty pictures.
"DJI is the golden standard for drones, holding 76% of the drone market in the United States."
Rise of drones for consumer use.
The rise of drones becoming accessible is in large part due to DJI, a Chinese leader in drone manufacturing and development. DJI is the golden standard for drones and holds 76% of the drone market in the U.S (in terms of ratio, think Apple vs. Android). An executive in DJI previously claimed that their “R&D team is larger than the total staff of any single UAV enterprise in the world”. DJI makes something for everyone, across multiple industries and for disparate consumers. They’ve become a giant and a ‘catch all’ for drones - private, commercial, and governmental - developing different models for a myriad of drone uses. A DJI model could carry small robotic arms, be used for agriculture, enterprise, or your personal photography.
Drones take us to new heights.
In 2019, $1.2B USD was invested in the drone market. Large sums of money are invested in the development of drones due to their versatility, small size, and relative affordability both for professionals and private consumers. As of today, drones are the most developed aerial unit in the world. What was once used for warfare, is now being used to create change for the better. Not all drones are made the same - some are macro and some are micro, but there’s an overarching growing trend to send drones to do little tasks, for big impact.
Below are examples of drone technologies making big changes in unexpected places.
Maintaining Ecological Balance in Greenhouse Agriculture
PATS - “Inspired by bats and butterflies” - is a drone that proactively controls harmful insect populations from plaguing greenhouse agriculture. Since greenhouse agriculture is a controlled climate, it doesn’t have nature’s natural predators that prevent pests from taking over a crop. PAT drones eradicate flying pest insects, and reduce the need for use of pesticides.
Solar Panel Maintenance
Renewable energy is one of the leading ways to reach sustainability goals and combat climate change, but actually maintaining the efficiency of solar panels can be costly. Dust collection on said solar panels is one culprit of serious efficiency loss. This is why companies like Fly&Do have created drone cleaning solutions specifically for the maintenance of solar panels and their performance optimization.
"In 2019, $1.2B USD was invested in the drone market as we witnessed a rise in their versatility, small size, and relative affordability both for professionals and private consumers."
Protecting Ocean Wildlife
Apart from solutions such as WasteShark, which acts like a swimming drone to collect garbage in the ocean, drone technology and imaging allows for protecting our ocean wildlife. They allow marine biologists to monitor and study wildlife non-invasively. Technologies such as SnotBot, catches whale snot (yes snot) in order to learn from it. What’s more, drones are even being used to save entangled whales, with organizations such as Oceans Unmanned working towards using unmanned tech for ocean conservation.
"Drones are even being used to save entangled whales, with organizations such as Oceans Unmanned working towards using unmanned tech for ocean conservation."
The golden era of drones is still ahead of us.
While huge strides are being made in the world of drone technology, there are still limitations that prevent it from reaching its full potential. As well as the physical limitations such as battery life (there are technologies that solve that too) there are regulatory restrictions too. That being said, you can bet that as soon as the regulations catch up with the development and potential of drone technology for positive impact, we will be seeing an even larger boom in this field.