Drones… actually, we prefer to use the technical term UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) or UAS (unmanned aerial system), are in the news almost every day recently, however, it seems the focus on these flying sensors is hardly ever in a positive light, rather, the mainstream media has really gravitated to the headline stealing, trendy, link bait headlines that focus on privacy issues and related topics (see BC home owner’s concern).
Additionally, it seems all the attention that the media has turned on the UAV technology has been coming out of the recreational user space. It seems that the government regulators, privacy commissioners, and law makers are going to be scrambling to come up with rules and regulations in an effort to safeguard the privacy concerns of Joe public. But what about the professional users and practical uses of UAVs? It seems that in all the hooplah that the real World, practical solutions and services that professionals perform with these devices has been forgotten.
A little History of UAVs for aerial imaging
We live in a World of data overload and sensors are everywhere. We have traffic and pedestrian cameras, red light sensors, webcams, Google Street view vehicles, GPS enabled smartphones, low altitude aerial imaging, satellite imagery, etc… sensors are everywhere. Drones, that is UAVs (we like to think of drones as being flown over areas of conflict for security and military reasons), have been around for a number of years… we recall years ago (back in 2007) when aerial photography enthusiasts were using duct tape to attach Nokia smartphones to air balloons and other recreational, hobby aircraft (See video).
From the traditional mapping world there have been countless companies providing aerial data capture and photogrammetry, typically with extremely expensive cameras (imaging devices) mounted in fixed wing aircraft in order to fly large areas for aerial photography missions. Companies like AAM Group, Cooper Aerial Surveys, Leica Geosystems, Sanborn, Merrick and many others have been flying professional data capture and aerial photography missions for many years. These companies have now expanded their professional services to also include AUVs for unmanned aerial data capture missions, albeit at a much higher precision and much larger spatial extents than the recreational hobbyist. Leica Geosystems recently announced the appointment of a manager to the position of UAS sales and companies like Trimble, JAVAD GNS, and Topcon Positioning all have their own UAS hardware solutions and these aren’t your typical recreational “drone”, rather, these are high-tech, high precision, long-range, aerial sensors that are capable of flying pre-configured missions for relatively long durations and capturing extremely high-res imagery for a variety of purposes and used by many industries.
Real World, professional Uses of UAVs
Unmanned sensors have many important uses and serve many industries. These applications range from military and intel, wildfire perimeter monitoring, oil pipeline and ESA right of way corridor analysis, agricultural monitoring, emergency response, and real estate / property management. Industries that are pioneers in the use of UAS technology include: mining, agriculture, civil engineering, surveying, and forestry.
The University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Aircraft Design (IFB), is part of a UAV research group that developed a fully electric helicopter UAV some time ago as part of a project funded by the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research). The team investigated how a UAV of this kind can support disaster management by helping with reconnaissance following major incidents such as earthquakes or floods. The UAV developed by the team is currently being used in a new research environment. In the LIDAR complex project (http://www.uni-stuttgart.de/windenergie/lidarcomplex/) funded by the BMWi (Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy), scientists at the University of Stuttgart are investigating how UAVs can be used to identify the best possible locations for wind turbines.
Google (you knew they had to get in on this) has a test project named Project Wing… Project Wing is a Google[x] project that is developing a delivery system that uses self-flying vehicles. The UAV can deliver water to those in need or perhaps medical supplies to a person in distress (See Video)
Scientists at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a Nepal-based research institute, and colleagues at Utrecht University in the Netherlands used unmanned aerial vehicles – UAVs, or drones to the layman – to map the Lirung glacier in Nepal in 2013. Also, in the Himalayas drones are helping to map the melting glaciers
- Why its hard to stop a peeping drone
- Drone mapping and selecting your first UAS
- Google drones: tech giant plans for private fleet
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This article was originally shared on the CloverPoint blog