You wouldn’t be wrong in assuming drones were more frequently associated with modern warfare efforts. Often referred to as UAVs, militaries began implementing these unmanned vehicles following World War Two and use within many countries’ armed forces has grown significantly over the last two to three decades. Now, however, drones are becoming increasingly common in several other markets. Here, are just some of the industries beginning to embrace them.
The agricultural industry is fully embracing the use of drones and many farmers have seen an increase in their crop yields since deploying the technology. In the U.S. last year it was reported that 45,000 UAVs had been sold for the purpose of farming while the Chinese government is supporting the movement to increase food supply and cater for its ever-growing population. Drones can be used in a number of different ways by farmers – monitoring plant health by assessing weed and insect damage, analysing soil conditions, observing livestock and measuring land temperatures.
With poaching an all too common problem in Africa, conservationists are deploying drones to combat the criminal activity. In 2013, Google donated $5 million to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to help fight the war on poaching, with some of the funding used to deploy drone technology in Zimbabwe and Malawi to herd elephants and other animals from one location to another. Drones are also assisting conservationists by identifying poaching hotspots, tracking the migration of animals and surveying nests. Another scientist has used a drone to study whale breathing patterns over long distances.
Drones may become a common sight in our cities soon as governments and major delivery services continue to push for trials of the idea. Strict flying rules and regulations may hamper developments in some countries but one major organisation has received approval for tests. In partnership with the UK government, online retail giant Amazon has gained permission to test aerial vehicles and is planning to assess the safety behind the idea of sending packages. Major delivery firms DHL and UPS are also using the technology, with both companies using it to transport packages to remote islands or parts of a country where distribution is notoriously more difficult. But arguably one of the greater drone uses taking place is in New Zealand where residents can receive Domino’s Pizza – yes, pizza – to their doors.
Police forces in the UK are toying with the idea of drone use, with a handful of forces trialling the technology. With the ability to map criminal behaviour, track offenders, hunt missing people and identify possible criminal activities using heat sensors, drones are certainly worth considering but questions regarding privacy have been raised and are slowing efforts by some forces. In the UK, Surrey Police is leading the movement, receiving £250,000 to spend on equipment. The force has a total of five drones and 38 members of it staff have been trained to use the technology. UAVs have been deployed to help with forensic collision investigations, neighbourhood responses and search operations, as well as helping Gatwick Airport’s armed response unit.