Use of Drones
Government agencies and businesses today are using drones for various reasons. For instance, government agencies operate the technology to chase down suspects, live video surveillance, and mapping out cities.
WAYS DRONES ARE USED
- Law enforcement agencies in the US use drones to map out entire cities for pre-storm assessment. Afterward, these maps can help with planning future events and evading disasters. When Daytona Beach was in the path of Hurricane Irma, the city's police department employed drones to locate the areas of the city that were at high risk of danger.
- Many police departments in the country also use drones to chase down suspects every year, especially where the ground units cannot locate suspects hiding on a roof. "In a case where a man holed up in a hotel threatening to detonate a grenade, the police were able to fly a drone, identifying the grenade as inert and preventing loss of life when the man finally appeared."
- Some public government agencies like the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) use drones for live video surveillance. These drones survey within 100 miles of US borders to locate any illegal activities. A DHS report suggests that CBP flew "635 missions totaling over 5,625 hours of flight" in 2017.
- Businesses are starting to exploit drones for purposes of accessibility, including delivery services, providing Wi-Fi services, and gathering aerial footage. For example, companies like Amazon, UPS, and Walmart have federal approvals to operate drone-based deliveries for products including wellness items, household products, beauty goods, and more. Likewise, Facebook and Google are experimenting with drones to provide Wi-Fi services to remote locations, whereas film directors operate them to gather aerial footage of various areas.
- Business executives are also implementing drone technology for collecting intelligence on the competition through imagery analysis and data science. For instance, some retailers use drones to locate competitors' stores, programming them to capture activity over a while. Afterward, executives use data science methods to draw demographic data on rivals' clientele based on "the makes and models of cars in the parking lots," for example.
- Some businesses in the US agriculture industry are using drones to help increase production. The drones are commonly equipped with "water, pesticides or herbicides, and can release their payload on a specific area, with the farmer watching from yards away on a screen." Other drones can deliver reports on crop conditions, areas of the farm that are too dry or flooded, and more; thereby, enabling farmers to take action.
USE CASE #1: Idaho Forest Group — Stockpile Volume Measurement
- Each year the company process about 2.5 million cubic meters of high-quality wood from its six huge lumber yards in the Idaho Forest.
- Idaho Forest Group purchased drones to help with the survey and measurement of its stockpile of log decks and residual wood piles on their yards.
How the Drones are Utilized
- The company's first drone of choice was the DJI Phantom 4, which flew, once or twice a week, across its vast lumber yards in Idaho and Montana to monitor stockpile volumes.
- The drones would deliver 100-200 quality images per flight, requiring a battery change with each flight due to the scale of these sites.
- The Idaho Forest Group second drone, the WingtraOne, fitted with a Sony QX1 payload, also conducted weekly or bi-weekly stockpile surveys.
- WingtraOne's was more equipped for the forest regions, covering more ground in less time and delivering 2000-3000 hi-res images per flight.
- Both drones were able to decrease the time required to complete the stockpile volume measurement.
- Traditional on-foot methods would take more than 7 hours to complete measurement. However, the DJI Phantom 4 cut stockpile measurement time to 2 hours.
- WingtraOne's stockpile volume monitoring took only 35 minutes, set-up and flight time combined.
- The drones were also able to deliver centimeter-accurate data, where "on-foot surveyors would be given a 10% leeway to allow for inaccuracies due to spaces and bark."
- In total, the Idaho Forest Group claims to have saved more than 51 hours per week and over $1,020 per year.
- The WingtraOne drones were able to save the company 2,652 hrs per year and $53,000 per year, representing "significantly higher accuracy for log deck volume estimates."
USE CASE #2: Horry County, SC — Impervious Surface Area Measurement
- Horry County Government needed a way to regularly measure impervious surface areas in order to estimate "wasted" stormwater fees for the county.
- The county collects fees for rainwater that fetch up on impervious surfaces (i.e., parking lots) around commercial buildings, "allowing them to help fund the maintenance of the stormwater infrastructure."
- However, due to the project's magnitude, the county government flew every 3-4 years, meaning stormwater fees went uncollected during those periods.
- With the county government now operating drone technology, regular measurements are possible.
How the Drones are Utilized
- When a new building inspection is requested, the county flies a drone to the area instead of waiting every few years.
- The drone captures still images of the impervious surfaces and relays them back in order to calculate stormwater runoffs and set fees for new commercial property.
- The technology has enabled the county government to increase its ROI on stormwater fees.
- It estimates an increase of more than $300,000 in collection fees over a three-year period from 2018.
- Horry County also uses drones to gather data and analyze damages and beach erosion after storms. The drones were used in 2016 after Hurricane Matthew "to fly over debris piles to calculate the yardage of debris collected for pickup."
FUTURE OF DRONES
- Experts predict that law enforcement agencies in the US will use drones as devices for bomb investigation in the future. A good example is the San Jose Police Department (SJPD), which recently obtained a drone precisely for this goal. The aim is to use the drone to locate latent explosive devices "and avoid exposing police bomb squad personnel to possible hazards."
- Technology futurist Gray Scott predicts that drones will be adopted in future hostage negotiations. This will be made possible through biomimetic patterns, which mimic nature. "These drones will be able to fly into space and produce a 3D scan so that if you’re dealing with a hostage situation, you can see exactly what’s going on inside the building without risking lives."
- Police inspection drones equipped with cameras, facial recognition software, and license-plate readers will be used to locate missing things. These would include a lost child in a crowded amusement park, "a hiker lost in the wilderness, and an Alzheimer’s patient wandering from home, or a runaway teen hitchhiking her way out of town."
- Drone technology will present innovative methods for businesses in the insurance industry to do tasks more efficiently and with reduced risks. For instance, the insurance industry gets a lot of offers for roof inspections due to destruction from natural hazards like hail, wind, or ice. "Instead of having a person climb up on the roof, which is dangerous, they can now send a drone to capture images of the damage and decide on the claim."
- Industry experts also foresee future companies in the US agriculture industry using drones "to strategically monitor and spray their crops." DroneSeed is currently developing a drone that will "blast fertilizer and seeds into the ground at 350 feet per second." The company claims that the solution will be good for worker safety and the environment.