While drones may be well known for military applications, there are many other evolving practical applications. Unmanned aerial vehicles are controlled by on-board computers or remote devices and the FAA currently estimates that as many as 7,500 small commercial Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) may be in use by 2018, assuming the necessary regulations are in place. This article explores some different practical applications of drones, including storm forecasting and more.
Drones equipped with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and digital cameras can take thousands of images and create three-dimensional maps. These maps have applications for flood mapping, disaster relief efforts, wildlife conservation, and hydrologic modeling. In the field of agricultural management, drones are used to help monitor soil moisture, nitrogen level and growth rate. Drones are unique for managing farms because they can cover steep terrain, monitor precise locations of crops and target treatments where they are needed.
Drone technology is rapidly growing and drones have proven to be able to cut cost for many otherwise expensive processes.
Using Drones For Storm Forecasting
Drones can aid in forecasting tropical storms and hurricanes. By simultaneously launching dozens of drones into a storm, research scientists can better understand the way wind and water interact. The drones have onboard GPS, pressure, temperature, and humidity sensors. A massive amount of data can be collected during a single storm event, resulting in improved forecasting of tropical storms and hurricanes. This practical application of drones has helped save lives by better organizing and targeting evacuations and mitigating costly damage.
Questions. Issues. Future.
The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that drones will be a billion-dollar market in a few years. However, many questions remain to be resolved about drones, including regulations and battery life.
Current FAA regulations allow for hobbyist drone use below an elevation of 400 feet and within the operator’s line of sight. Battery life is an issue as well. Drones need to have a high power-to-weight ratio, and the small size of the on-board battery on hobby models limits the amount of flying time before recharging is needed.
Just how expensive are drones? A beginner’s model can cost less than $100, while drones equipped with cameras cost hundreds of dollars. More complex features like customization allow the user to program instructions but those models can cost $1,000 or more.
Drones have many practical applications beyond military operations. Unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with GPS and cameras can aid in search-and-rescue missions, agricultural management and storm forecasting. The potential for future applications of drone technology is as endless as the human imagination.