I always thought it risky when I see cameramen sitting at the door of helicopters in flight holding their cameras in a bid to capture moments. The crazy thought that runs through my mind at such a sight is “what if he falls, or his camera slips from his hold” it will not only be damaged but will amount to a possible loss of life, property and invaluable time.
The advent of drones has changed the narrative, as we no longer need to go through the hassles of hiring a helicopter and the extremes of having a cameraman perch in some helicopter to have moments captured. With a drone, it all got simple, seamless and less chaotic.
A drone is also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) weighing up to 20 kg (50 lbs). The drone is an aircraft without a crew, passengers or any human pilot on board. This auto-piloted aerial vehicle has a built-in unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that communicates with the ground-based controller. A drone may operate under remote control by a human operator, as remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA), or with various degrees of autonomy, such as autopilot assistance, up to fully autonomous aircraft that have no provision for human intervention. This is to say that some drones can function
independently, slightly dependent or fully dependent on the human factor for its coordination.
The earliest drones called balloon carriers were used for war in July 1849 to launch balloon bombs, when Austrian forces tried to besiege Venice. The UAV played roles in the first and second World Wars; the intensification of UVA development started in 1960 when the U.S. Air Force U-2 (also known as the Dragon lady, the famous single-seat, high-altitude spy plane used for intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance) was shot down by the Soviet Union. The fears of losing more pilots over hostile territories led to the start of the highly- classified UAV program code-named “Red Wagon”
Beyond the use of drones for wars, in modern times drones are equipped with navigation systems (GPS), recording devices such as RGB cameras, infrared cameras, and other sensors for higher functionality. The application of drones has indeed improved many spheres of human experience – like reducing human risks in extreme situations, border security, assisting to ease the means of doing business and job creation just as in the AI industry. Some other applications of drones include:
We have witnessed tremendous development in the field of Agriculture since the integration of drone technology in its processes. The UAV has assisted farmers in monitoring:
Crop health: With the use of UAVs, farmers can keep track of damages made by pests, colour changes due to pest infection, vegetation indices; leaf area, anomaly detection, phenology and yield without necessarily moving around and about the farm.
i. Application of Chemicals: Drone spraying drones from DJI equipped with payloads can evenly distribute chemicals like Fertilizers, Herbicides, Fungicides, Pesticides over a large expanse of farmland at ease without intense manual labour. This will not only cut costs but will also encourage the efficient and effective application of these chemicals.
ii. Field Mapping: The aerial view provided by a drone makes field mapping safer in difficult areas, such as uneven or expansive fields, that can be hazardous for operators – particularly compared to terrestrial techniques, which must be carried out on foot.
iii. Planting: UAVs can be used to detect nutrient availability in the soil for plant nutrient management. It also is used to plant more seeds over an expansive field faster and with utmost precision than a farmer will do using tractors.
v. Drones can be used to monitor irrigation systems, detect natural disasters, such as floods, erosion and damage across terrains that may not be readily accessible on foot.
2. Aerial photography/Cinematography
With the use of drones, the risk of having a cameraman sit at the edge of helicopters has been successfully eliminated. Drones are perfect for capturing aerial shots in photography and cinematography and are widely used for this purpose. A drone equipped with professional cameras is controlled by a camera operator who controls the camera angle and lens. The AERIGON for instance is a cinema drone used in the production of big blockbuster movies is operated by 2 persons. Drones provide access to dangerous, remote or otherwise inaccessible sites.
The shortage of manpower makes the UVAs an option since it is low cost compared to Police helicopters adding to its powerful surveillance tools and camera systems are capable of the scanning license plate and thermal imaging, as well as radio equipment and other sensors which may be used for search and rescue operations and also for in-land, forest and border aerial patrols, usually served by crewed police aircraft.
Drones used in the transportation of foods, medical supplies, or other goods are known as delivery drones. Delivery drones are normally autonomous.
i. Medical Deliveries
In Oct.2016, a drone was used to deliver blood products to 21 Rwandan hospitals on-demand, reducing delivery time from four hours by road to about 20 minutes with the use of drones that travel up to 100 km per hour. Drones were also used to transport relief materials to Puerto Rico during the 2019 hurricane crisis. Between 2020 and 2021 drones made medical deliveries of personal protective equipment and COVID-19 tests in the United States, Israel, and Ghana during the Covid-19 pandemic.
ii. Postal Service
Postal companies from Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Ukraine are making concerted efforts to use drones for their delivery services. The USPS has been testing delivery systems with HorseFly Drones.
iii. Food Delivery
Food delivery companies in Singapore and Pakistan are proposing a solution to use drones for rapid food deliveries such as pizzas, tacos, and frozen beverages and prepared foods deliveries using multirotor drones from ST Engineering and VTOL drones from Woot Tech.
The drone technology is not without its cons but I think its gains are far-reaching.