The word 'drone' frequently referred to as UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles often bring to mind an image associated with warfare owing to the heavy use of drones by the military. Nevertheless, this is a myth! There are numerous ways that drones are being used in the different commercial operations outside this domain.
They are being used more and more in other ways in society as they are helping aid workers and even ecologists have started putting these devices to use towards sustainable development.
Their capability to access, inspect and gather data from an area of concern in minimal time and cost is almost incomparable. The use and applications of drone technology are being extended to make the devices active tools in humanitarian and safeguarding the environment. Used suitably and with the correct regulation in place, drones can help improve work carried out in the field of sustainable development.
Various examples of drones in development projects show the possibilities of using them in the field of humanitarian aid and environmental protection.
Renewable Energy Projects
Aerial technology is proving to be an emerging trend in renewable energy projects. A great example of this is solar farms. Drone inspections are keeping large-scale solar energy projects successfully running around the world. The thermal mapping ability of this technology is assisting solar companies in assessing the anomalies in a quick time and carrying out rectification to efficiently manage production of solar energy. Simply put, drones are helping solar projects kick off and get going.
The thermal imaging camera helps relay footage back to a team on the ground. Using a Thermal drone one can map an area, spot invasive vegetation and dust on the solar panels and other problems that might occur. It can also detect defective panels that are overheating.
Often people relate mapping to real estate or agriculture; developing an in-depth view of an area that can be used for planning and modelling.
But one mapping can be beyond land, that is, industrial emissions. Advanced sensor technologies in drones coupled with AI and special software platform are capable of tracking invisible gases from above.
Deforestation and Wildlife Conservation
Drones are also being used to tackle illegal logging and industrial deforestation. Pandemic has proved that the natural world is something that should be cared for and preserved. And that includes wildlife.
They can also monitor banned logging activity and map landscapes in their entirety. This allows conservation teams to keep an eye on the development of the land over time, and ensure that farms, plantations and poachers don’t upset wildlife and the environment. Today illegal poaching is causing certain animals to fall to the point of near-extinction, including elephants and tigers. Besides tracking poachers, drones are also deployed to count populations of animals. Drones are also helping with animal conservation efforts in many countries.
In interiors and inaccessible locations, this is usually a labour-consuming and costly process, but drones facilitate local conservationists to keep a finger on the pulse of local wildlife with ease.
It is well known that drones are very useful in agriculture. They help farmers to evaluate crop health & yield from above in a more cost-effective and efficient way. They help farmers make informed decisions on the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Drones not only match up manual labour that goes into agricultural work but perform better in terms of cost and time.
By empowering farmers to use their land as efficiently as possible, drones can help to keep the necessary industry of agriculture free from waste and environmentally damaging practices.
Water is one of the most precious commodities around the world, but significant quantities are lost on a daily basis through leaking and broken pipes.
Armed with infrared cameras, drones are being used in hot and remote locations, to spot leaks in underground water pipes in the desert.
A research done by an environmental scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory shows that delivery drones can lessen the burden on the environment and deliver smaller packages faster than trucks. Delivery trucks are responsible for about 20% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions
So, drone technology and its applications are ever growing and are offering multiple and dynamic technological and social impacts. Filling the gap between satellites and ground surveying, drones enable fast, remote access to a particular area, allowing activists, scientists and aid workers to compile reports, analyse situations and obtain data about a region, issue or disaster faster, more accurately and saves more time than having teams of people on the ground. Beyond monitoring and observation, drones can also proactively be used to help get medical supplies to those in need, plant trees and monitor deforestation.
The author of the article is Wing Commander S Vijay (Veteran), Chief Operating officer, Skye Air Mobility