Drones are more popular than ever but they have been around for a long time! One source has the first drone dated back to 1849 when Austria attacked Venice with unmanned balloons. Each balloon carried 14 kg of bombs! These days, our use of the word drone often refers to quad- or octocopters used in a range of different fields – or unmanned planes that bomb foreign countries. Here we’ll look at who buys drones and some examples of their use!
When you think of drones and their uses you probably think of video and photography equipped drones. But there is so much more to drones these days and the potential markets that they are disputing. Some lesser-known users of drones are farmers and agriculture, PE teachers and creative writers, scientists collecting whale snot and monitoring wildlife, drone racers looking to build their own fast drone, and athletes looking to perfect their game! Every person who buys a drone will require the drone to perform a specific action – and the manufacturers are building drones to match those needs!
Agriculture is a fantastic place for drone technology. There are big open fields that need monitoring and evaluation. Here are a few examples of how farmers use drones in their daily activities:
Soil and plantation analysis
Drones can be used to create 3D maps for soil analysis. This information is really useful for planning seed planting. In a recent study, a Finnish research group created a drone and augmented reality system to acquire and view data for soil mapping. The drones were able to operate in cloudy conditions unlike satalye data. Also drones are a pretty easy and fun way to map any large surface!
Commercial drone manufacturers have identified the crop spraying market as one ready to be shaken up with drone technology! Check out this hype video from DJI for it’s Agras T16:
The benefits of drone spraying is that the drone can adjust to the hills and ditches of a farms or paddocks geography. This results in a precise delivery of the products being sprayed onto the farm and has launched the idea of “Precision Agriculture”. This new field (pardon the pun) is discussed in this science study – Review on Application of Drone Systems in Precision Agriculture.
Planting tress and plants
Drones in agriculture can also plant trees and plants! The drone quite often doesn’t even need to lad or touch the ground – they can send seed missiles from the air! These seed missiles contain all of the nutrients that the seed needs to start growing and be sustained during the early part of its life.
Check out this video about all of the ways that this start up are planting trees!
As with the other applications, the benefits of this technology is that the drones can plant trees in places that are hard to reach. Or impossible areas like really steep hills. The drones can be programmed to plant in patterns. The technology is being used to combat climate change on an industrial level!
Plant health assessment
Drones can carry a large array of different sensors. Having a different array of sensors on a drone can help identify a load of health information abut a plant. For example, The combination of camera and infrared data could tell you a lot about a plant’s health and detect sick crops or underperforming areas of an orchard.
A quick response from the farmer could save entire years worth of crop production from ruin. This recent study showed that drones were able to accurately predict crop yield by monitoring irrigation treatments.
There are plenty of other examples of how drones are used in agriculture, such as livestock monitoring and stockpile monitoring – there are many awesome ways that drones can disrupt farming!
Teachers and students
Education is a fantastic place for drone technology. Getting a drone in the air combines so many skills and techniques in a fun activity that students love.
Drones for science
One of the front runners of drone technology for education is the Robolink CoDrone lite. This business’s mission was to encourage students to learn about science, technology, engineering, and math in an engaging way.
Check out this video where you can see how the CoDrone encourages students to build and code a drone:
While there is a natural fit from drone technology in the science and technology educational space. There are also many other creative ways that you can use drones in education:
Drones for writing exercises
One of the reasons that people are attracted to drones is the unique perspective that it can give you on the world. I loved my first time sending the drone up to it’s maximum altitude and just looking around.
This same experience can be used with a classroom of students to get creativity flowing. Combining a trip into nature with some drone footage and a story writing task is a brilliant combination of diciplines and healthy activites.
You can also take the drone and photograph some familiar places in some unfamiliar ways and play a guessing game as to where the pictures where taken!
Drones for math
Let’s face it math can be a pretty boring subject to teach. But chuck in some real world experience on top and it can become the most captivating and interesting lessons you’ll ever have!
In this video a teacher uses the drones movements to illustrate a distance time graph and how it is created.
This method of learning information is not only fun for the students but it can also be the key to helping them remeber the imporant concepts from the lesson!
Drones for PE (Physical Education)
Drones can be a great way to get students active too!
Sport is starting to contain so many more analytics tools and data-driven training that recording and analysing drone footage could be the perfect way to improve any sport.
An example of a really fun and interesting start up is AthletesAI. They use video content captured from any camera to analyse tennis, cricket and table tennis players.
Another fun drone activity is to use a drone to race or find students in a game of hide-and-seek. There are plenty of ways that drone footage can be used in sport and education that you are only really limited by your imagination – once you have a drone of course!
Scientists are using drones for a range of research! From collecting samples of whale snot and surveying coral reefs. The power and versatility of drone usage is a power that scientists would be silly to ignore!
Scientists, are using drones for a wide range of purposes such as mapping hard to access environments, monitoring agricultural crops, tracking wildlife, identifying biosecurity threats and distinguishing features in the landscape such as craters or erosion.
Here is the TED talk from a scientist and how drone footage is used in conservation:
One of my favorite science stories involving a drone was flying a drone through whale snot to identify the hormones and organisms that whales have. They use this data to monitor the health and is way less invasive than current techniques!
Here are some other awesome ways that scientists are using drones:
- Monitoring archaeological sites
- Sampling air for climate research
- Disaster response research
- Check illegal hunting for conservation
- Mapping ancient rock art
Drone racing and first-person-view (FPV) racing is a popular sport. It involves flying a small drone or quadcopter through impressively lit courses resulting in stunning footage and nailbiting action.
Check out The Drone Racing League for more information about this sport!
The drones that are flown around these courses are built and not bought. It is about engineering the perfect drone as well as the skill of the pilot. The pilots are equipped with headsets that show them real-time footage of the drone’s live feed. The goal is to complete a course as quickly as possible.
There are many leagues around the world and if this is something that you’d like to be part of check out your local drone racing club!
Part of the fun of drones for some people is the act and challenge of building a drone. This combines a range of skills from a diverse range of fields. Electrical, programming, engineering, physics.
All of it combines into an machine that is fun to fly! What’s not to love?
Photographers and Videographers
Drone photography can result in some truly amazing pictures and images!
It is becoming more accessible than ever to get stunning pictures. Commercial drone cameras are probably the most innovation the photography business has seen for a long period of time!
There are a number of different models at a range of different price points and it can be overwhelming when choosing one for yourself!
There are a number of things that you need to take into account when you are choosing a drone for yourself this includes:
- Your experience – have you flown a drone before?
- The camera requirements – what are you taking images of? Do you need it to be quiet for animals, will you be flying it in strong winds?
- The laws and the drone you can fly as a hobbyist – normally a drone needs to be under a certain weight otherwise you need a pilots license.
- Where you are taking the drone – I like my drones to fit in my backpack. I can then take it anywhere!
Choose a drone that fits your needs and I can guarantee that getting out and flying it will be an activity that you look forward to – it may even force you to travel to places you’ve never been before.
A word of warning – once you try to get the “perfect shot” you’ll spend a lifetime trying to get it! Which probably isn’t such a bad thing!