Imagine an ambulance inching through peak hour traffic for miles to reach a patient who has suffered a cardiac arrest in an urban center somewhere in the world. The ambulance may not always get there in time. That’s where Defikopter—a drone that airdrops life-saving defibrillator machines to assist patients experiencing a cardiac arrest—could step in. All that is needed is a smartphone linked to GPS that allows users to summon the drone for assistance.
A drone or an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is simply an aircraft without a human pilot, and has traditionally been associated with military operations. But if you thought that UAV technology meant bomb-dropping drones, think again. The industry that is expected to double its spending over the next decade to touch $ 11.9 billion in 2023 has begun to impact other industries as well.
In recent times, some of the most high profile uses of UAV technology have been in disaster management. For instance, drones were used to assess the damage caused by hurricane Katrina, moving into areas that were still inaccessible to humans. Similarly, winged vehicles fitted with radiation sensors and infrared thermometers flew in after the Japanese tsunami to survey the impact of the disaster on the Fukushima nuclear facility. More recently, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade deployed flying drones equipped with cameras to monitor fire and other incidents in Australia.
Drones have also begun to transform Australia’s mining industry. Today, UAVs has been tested in a variety of mining functions, such as environmental scanning, pit wall mapping, and infrastructure assessments. In fact, as early as 2009, during Australia’s worst ever oil spill, UAV technology was used to survey the fire-damaged West Atlas drill rig and the Montara oil platform.
While the initial applications of UAV technology may have been in the prevention of the loss of life, drones have moved into other areas and industries as well. Dominos has been testing remote-controlled pizza delivery in the UK, while a Chinese courier company is making history with its use of drones to deliver parcels to remote locations.
The utilities sector has discovered the benefits of this technology too. Various utilities have been exploring the use of civilian drones to locate downed electricity lines and assess the damage to power lines during a blackout.
Clearly, the use of UAV technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. It’s no longer about reaching otherwise inaccessible areas any more. Today, this technology often provides industry with the most cost-effective solution. This was best demonstrated when British Petroleum used drones to inspect oil and gas pipelines in Alaska in 2012.Drones are impacting the aviation industry too where they could dramatically reduce the cost of taking to the skies, and make flying an affordable alternative.
While concerns over privacy and licensing of commercial drones remain, a solution could soon be around the corner. Governments across the globe have been recognizing the benefits of UAV technology for some time now, and have been working to iron out solutions.
Do you believe that UAV technology is silently transforming our world? Tell us what you think.