Drone technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, but organizations are still only scratching the surface of what these devices can do.
For business and IT leaders who are unfamiliar with the technology, drones might seem like the domain of hobbyists or the military. But advanced features — such as high-resolution cameras, heat sensors, artificial intelligence and data analytics software — enable a variety of innovative use cases.
Here are five ways that businesses and government agencies are already using drones to complete tasks more quickly, more safely and more efficiently than humans can.
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1. Search and Rescue
In cases of missing persons, rescue teams can use drones with thermal imaging cameras to search broad areas in far less time than it takes to deploy teams of human employees or volunteers. A recent study showed that drones can help to find missing persons more quickly than humans working without drones, but cautioned that planning and developing a search strategy before executing a drone flight is essential to success.
It’s often said that if a job is dull, dirty or dangerous, you should consider using a drone. Inspections, of course, are often dangerous, especially for tall or hard-to-access structures such as cellphone towers, bridges or oil and gas rigs. Data analytics software adds another layer of value; by comparing images gathered at different times, these programs can quickly identify and flag any substantial changes, such as the spreading of a crack in a structure.
In construction, developers are using drones to conduct site surveys. Drones give business teams the critical topographical data they need to make decisions about various sites’ potential for development and can also be used to monitor progress once construction has started. Some industry-specific data analytics platforms can even provide contextual information, such as how many beams have already been erected at a site. And drones with lifting capabilities can also be used to assist construction crews with transporting materials to higher floors.
4. Emergency Response
First responders can often benefit from having visual information before they arrive at the site of an emergency, natural disaster or unfolding incident. For instance, drones can be sent into burning buildings to assess conditions and locate people and assets before firefighters enter. Or, a drone might be deployed during a riot or active shooter scenario to provide police with a live view of ground conditions before they put themselves in harm’s way or risk worsening a situation due to a lack of information.
Farmers are using drones to quickly assess the health of their crops and livestock, and government agencies are using the technology to gain insights into growth conditions. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service has used drones to gather images that provide information about crop density and soil erosion. One ARS researcher said he was able to gather 3.5 billion data points in the span of three hours using drone technology.
To the uninitiated, drones may seem unfamiliar, complicated or even unnecessary. But that’s largely how computers were perceived just a few decades ago; now, they’re indispensable in most workplaces. For organizations willing to take the leap (often with the help of an internal evangelist or some good outside training), drones can add value immediately.
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