Drones and their uses

I have been a drone enthusiast for a couple of years now. It all started when I was taking summer classes at BC. I had to wait until my afternoon class and did not have much to do in the meantime. With time in my hands, I decided to scroll down the kickstarter website to find new gadgets or interesting product being developed. As I was going through the technology section something drew my attention. It was the Hexo+ project: an experimental autonomous drone designed to follow the person holding the phone with the Hexo app. It was perfect for someone just getting into the drone’s world since it was very user friendly and simple to fly. However, the company had not finished their product, so they were crowdfunding the project and in 1 year time they would send the final version of the Hexo+ drone to all of its backers. In the end, it took them approximately 1.5 years to deliver the final product, but luckily for me, they were able to fulfill their promises of a self-driving drone.

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After getting my hands around the Hexo+ I realized that their prototype was years behind other drones in the marketplace such as DJI. Their great accomplishment was creating a self-driving vehicle, but they were missing other great flying modes and features such as: Draw, TapFly, Return Home, Gesture Mode, 5 Direction obstacle sensing, 4.3mi long range control. Having control over your drone at all times is necessary to get the quality shots that you are looking for. Even though it requires a person to be in charge of the control remote at all times, it has a better outcome from the filming perspective. The draw features allow you to draw a path on the map at a specific altitude and the GPS signal on the drone will make sure that the drone stays on track (even if you lose the drone from sight). Losing a drone with these features is pretty much impossible since whenever the drone loses signal and disconnects from the control remote, it is programed to come straight back to the Home location. In addition, it comes with several sensors on the sides to ensure that there are no obstacles threatening the drone. When the drone detects an object, it will override the remote control commands to prevent a beginner flyer to crash the drone on the first fly out of the package.

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After flying drones for a little I could help but start thinking about the dozens of uses that drones could have for different companies in order to improve the customer experience. Moving away from the technical aspects of drones, I would like the rest of the blog post to be about possible applications of drones on a regular person’s daily life.

When Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said that drones would be part of the delivery options in the e-commerce platform, many thought he was exaggerating and maybe even a little crazy. However, on December 7th 2016, Amazon completed the first Amazon Prime Air shipping to a customer in Cambridgeshire, England. At the moment, Amazon is conducting tests and hopefully sooner rather than later we will be able to get out deliveries in 30 mins or less. Other companies are also investing in this type of technology to incorporate as part of the supply chain: JD.com, Domino’s Pizza, 7-Eleven, Google. Imagine how efficient product delivery could simplify customer’s lives as we no longer would have to waste time going to a store for a single product.

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Product delivery is only one of a drone’s many uses. Let’s talk about a life saving use. In a search and rescue operations, drones can be used as additional air support and could be used to find people as well as to find the source of a fire in the case of firefighters. Rescue units would be able to lower their costs since they no longer have to pay for costly helicopters in their operations. Also, emergencies are very sensitive to time, and imagine how much time could be saved if someone brings a drone in the emergency unit instead of waiting for a helicopter to arrive.

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Furthermore, consider for a second how drones could be used by the police as air support to tackle terrorism threats and identify criminals from the air in the middle of a pursuit. Furthermore, drones are less noisy that a regular helicopter, so they can also be used in undercover operations without alerting the suspects. These silent drones allow the police to have surveillance from the sky, and could even be used for protests/manifestations where it is difficult to surveil large masses of people.

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Drones are currently being used in 3-D Mapping, where they survey landscapes and take hundreds of pictures to create a 3-D Map with a special software that puts them together. Even though satellites also produce these type of maps, using drones is more cost-efficient and allows small companies or even individuals to have access to this technology. Just like, rangers can use drones to keep track of the wildlife in a national park without having to move through the forest.

Drones seem to be the future of different industries and I am sure that we will continue to find more uses along the way. Hopefully they can also be used in the third world to improve the living standards of the population. Just like they are used to deliver purchased products by Amazon, they could be used by NGOs to bring medical aid and food to remote locations. I am looking forward to see how market leaders will implement this technology in urban locations and cities. I will keep an eye out to see what regulators have to say about this matter. I am sure that it will provoke an interesting debate.

7 comments

  1. Great post! I think one of the amazing things about technology is getting a first taste at an extremely new innovation and wondering what it’s potential outcomes are. These all seem like distant fantasies, but then I think about a conversation I had with someone 12 years ago about how “someday iPods and phones will be the same device”. iPods were so ingrained in culture that it didn’t seem possible for it to leave, but now here I am in 2017 and just typing the word “iPod” makes me feel nostalgic. I do think there are certain practical limits for drones that will take decades before they can be feasible, but I also recognize that we are already seeing the normalization of drones. I can buy them anywhere and I know many people who have them, I feel like this is the first step for an innovation to become truly a major part of our culture.

  2. Really neat post! Drones really are one of those things that we’ve barely begun using to their fullest of capabilities, I’m sure we’ll look back on 2017 and laugh about how we only thought drones were useful for deliveries. Not sure how much I like the idea of them being used for surveillance though, that’s kinda creepy. What’s going to be really interesting is when the line finally blurs between drones and just full-out robots!

  3. Awesome post! I think we are only beginning to scratch the surface of commercial drone usage. While the military has been using drone technology for years now, use in the consumer space is relatively untapped. I wonder if the future of personal drone usage means more restrictions or possibly outlawing use as airspace becomes more crowded with commercial and business applications.

  4. Nice post – I liked your enthusiastic take on where the technology could be going with regards to commercial applications.

    The surveillance application of drone technology worries me a little bit. I know there are a lot of concerns about the CIA’s use of the technology for combatting terrorism with drone strikes overseas. It seems we are past the point of no return on that front. In many countries, police departments have acquired equipment that makes them look more like military units. The more equipment and technology that police officers acquire, the less likely they are to go out and engage with communities and citizens. I would be a little worried about police departments using drones to conduct surveillance. I think if we look at the role of police officers beyond fighting crime, there is certainly an argument to be made for drone technology.

  5. Great post! It really is astounding how far drone technology has come and how close it is to mass commercial use. One of the things I’ve been interested in about the drone industry is how retailers like Amazon place to safely and securely deliver packages, specifically in a way where the product inside will not be damaged or stolen by deviant pedestrians. Perhaps there is a need for a hardware device that accepts packages from drones, and then protects the contents inside to be accessed only by a unique password sent to the customer.

  6. WOW it is really interesting seeing how many industries drones can benefit. I really never thought about how a drone could carry something like an AED quicker than someone else could access one. I also think it’s interesting how the Hexo+ relates to Erin’s presentation last week on how geo-location services are being used. Really interesting post!

  7. Really nice post. Prof Wyner (who has a BC-sponsored drone) had been talking about trying to program it to become a campus guide. He’d send the drone down to the parking deck, where it would acquire the guest, leading them back to Fulton Hall.

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