Why do we use drones?

They are lining the sky more and more and you hear about drones about every week. But what can we really do today with a drone? Discover examples of using professional and non-professional drones in different areas or sectors of activity.

The object is so present today that it would be difficult to play the advocates of language: the general public and businesses have appropriated the use and it is surely very well like that. It is even more interesting to note that today there are examples of the use of drones in extremely diverse areas, affecting areas far from what they were being done at the beginning.

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“Since we are often asked the question, let us try to answer it comprehensively: what is the purpose of drone and what are the uses of civilian, professional or military drones?

MAKING WAR

Unfortunately, one cannot be exhaustive without recalling the primary use of drones. These military drones used in contemporary warfare serve to eliminate strategic targets without endangering pilots. A use that is still disputed in the army because it puts a cold distance between the operator and its target, between the control screen and the target eliminated. As The Kernel noticed last February when interviewing a former drone pilot, this position far from fighting is not the most coveted.

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The United States is the largest users of combat drones, which entered their armies as early as the 1990s. For example, in 1994, the Predators made their first Test flights and are launched as early as the following year in the Balkans. These aircraft with a radius of 1250 km can be launched in reconnaissance without weapons or be equipped with Hellfire missiles.

Generally speaking, the drone has a triple use in contemporary armies: surveillance (inside and outside), ground reconnaissance for ground, and air troops, and elimination. In France, it is only since 2011 that permission has been given to build armed drones, which will be the next generation of aircraft: the Owl manufactured by EADS that the French army uses today is just a reconnaissance drone.

HAVE FUN AND LEARN HOW TO DRIVE

Far from military concerns, the drone has become what we know today under this name thanks to the so-called recreational drone. Aeromodelling did not wait for the 2000s and the appearance of smartphones to create airplanes and other remotely controlled helicopters, but it is good with a new generation of drone that the use has changed from the experienced professional to the general public.

And it is perhaps the Frenchman Parrot who was the precursor of this new wave for amateurs with his AR Drone released in 2010. If the first models did not make much noise, the fault at a price too high compared to what technology allowed at the time, this allowed Parrot to specialize in the sector and become, a few years later, a reference. Today, the Parrot Bebop 2 is one of the best drones on the market and the one whose price-quality ratio is perhaps the most advantageous for the beginner who wants to equip themselves with comfortable equipment for his first flights.

In the top of the range, the famous Phantom 4 of DJI won the votes, both amateurs and professionals, obstacle detection and new smart flight modes allowed him to temporarily resume first place on the podium while waiting for the first tests of the Yuneec Typhoon H. Phantom 3 still remains an excellent model that starts at 599 euros with radio and battery included. On the DJI site, you will also find spare parts that will allow you to repair parts of your drone most likely to break, including propellers and landing gear.

If you want a small drone not too expensive to start flying, turn back to Parrot and the new Airborne series drones. Avoid Rolling Spider, which has a slight problem: an unknown reason most likely related to an alien plot, this species tends to fly away from you and never return again.

MAKE FILMS AND DOCUMENTARIES

If you missed it in the previous category, yes, today almost all drones are equipped with cameras. The toughest professional models can even lift a SLR or movie cameras to make movies or documentaries. If in 1998, the famous David Attenborough had been able to shoot an exciting documentary about birds, the 2015 remake called Conquest of the Skies is all the more impressive. The drones built for the occasion by the companies Colossus and Digital Cinema Films are 9.2 kilograms capable of lifting two stabilized 5K cameras.

The drone journalism also makes it possible to reach disaster areas or conflict zones to report without endangering reporters. It also allows for new general plans (e.g. a demonstration) without the use of expensive helicopters. A practice that tends to spread: there is already a drone journalism course at the University of Missouri or a professional association of drone journalists in the United States. In practice, Daily Dot journalists used a Phantom to document the Harlem explosion.

Many experiments have been carried out since then but tend to remain discreet as practice is increasingly regulated. In early 2015, CNN took precautions and announced, for example, a drone reporting program in partnership with the U.S. Civil Aviation Administration.

BUILD FLYING WEAPONS

Because innovation has no limit, many Americans have had fun sticking pistols onto their drones to turn them into propeller weapons. If the simplest ones only use vulgar petoirs, the most sophisticated ones go so far as to carry flamethrowers or chainsaws?!?

DEVELOP PRECISION AGRICULTURE

It was not at the Agriculture and Livestock Suppliers World that we would have expected to find products like drones, but yet, at the beginning of 2016, the agricultural drone had a prominent place in the aisles of the innovation pole. Yes, these small flying gear will become valuable allies for farmers who want to monitor their fields. And for agriculture traditional or precision agriculture, the drone knows how to do a lot of things:

  • identify and recognize soil heterogeneities
  • allow to create areas on a plot to vary the density of seedlings
  • use zoning to homogenize a plot to increase its potential
  • accurately determine the needs of plantations by examining plant density
  • know quickly the damage on a plot and their cause (game, water damage, drought…)

Most companies entering the agricultural drone position themselves on the market as service providers: they do not build their drones themselves but use models available on the market where they install sensors to fulfill customer orders. They are the ones who operate the drones and process the data, with farmers having access only to the final product: a commented summary of the results.

These quick, efficient, cheaper and less polluting flights than an aircraft will improve the yields of plots and protect them from environmental hazards. In the end, the idea is to be able to sow and treat with precision that will prevent waste and reduce the environmental impact of pesticides.

DELIVER PARCELS

This is the fashionable use that no one could miss. The drone is a boon for all companies that have a delivery activity: economical, mobile, fast and autonomous, the delivery drone has only a disadvantage in size compared to motorized equivalent — the weight it can carry.

Thus, Amazon and other postal services are positioned on the research and development of drone delivery. Smaller companies like PopChef believe this will be the next revolution in proximity delivery to address the “last mile” issue for delivery.

We imagine seeing drones flying at low altitude in the city of tomorrow, delivering parcels and letters, but since their autonomy is indexed to their load, it is quite difficult to think of drones carrying more than small books and items or food. Rolling autonomous vehicles, which are not drones, could help them on that side.

Drones can also be used to deliver to inaccessible territories; for example, they will be used in Rwanda to deliver drugs in remote areas of the country.

STREAM WI-FI

It is a lubia that will escape the individual as well as those who have a stable and good speed internet connection but it is a goal of big tech companies: to offer internet access to the whole planet. And for that, drones have a say. If Google instead bet on balloons and Elon Musk on satellites, Facebook imagined a drone of the wingspan, deployed wings, of a Boeing to accomplish this task.

This machine named Aquila can be maintained for several months at very high altitude thanks to its solar panels and can communicate live with other drones to cover an area continuously. On the Internet broadcast, it is equipped with an optical laser capable of transferring data at 10 GB per second.

Knowing that about 57% of humanity has no Internet access today, we understand the willingness of these giants to reduce the digital divide as quickly as possible. It is both bringing this technology that we use on a daily basis to all over the world without discrimination and finding new users.

MODELING SOILS AND BUILDINGS IN 3D

Close your eyes for a moment and try to appear the Christ the Redeemer above Rio de Janeiro. Yes, the one that was illuminated with the German flag at the last Football World Cup. Now that you have it, you probably remembered that it was installed on a mountain and that it was rather difficult to access. But where scaffolding cannot settle down, drones land.

The University of Rio and Aeryon Labs used drones to take very high definition photographs of the famous statue and compiled them to arrive at a 3D reproduction of the building, essential for conservatives involved in maintaining national monuments. So certainly, the final product is not directly from the drone, but without the drone it would have been very delicate — if not impossible — to photograph the statue of Christ as accurately.

SAVING LIVES

No, drones don’t want us all hurt. No more than robots, no matter what the Skynet apostles say. And sometimes they can save our lives. How? Well, it’s pretty simple: imagine for example a drone that would carry a life jacket and could be sent in seconds to a swimmer in distress, thanks to pales much faster than a lifeguard. It’s not science fiction, but the Ryptide project. The machine is equipped with a GoPro to allow the rescuer, who is human this time, to control it.

And if you live too far from the coast for this drone to touch you, how about an ambulance drone whose prototype was developed by a Belgian student? Municipalities are increasingly focusing on equipping our sidewalks and places with strong defibrillator gatherings to help victims of cardiac arrest. With a drone, no more need for a fixed defibrillator at every corner: it’s the flying device that moves to the scene of the drama. A method that is all the more effective because it allows to cover areas that are not priority for public services: it is not said that cardiac arrest occurs under the defibrillator of the town halls.

At $15,000 per device, it will necessarily have to lower its price before it becomes profitable, but it will certainly save money in the long term, and save lives that could not have been.

HELPING LAW ENFORCEMENT

If South Park saw just in the previous season, police drones will hunt bandits drones in the near future. But before reality joins fiction, there are these drones that the French gendarmerie wants to use for recognition or surveillance of areas that are difficult to reach.

In Paris, the police prefer the use of the drone than the use of the helicopter, which is more expensive and more difficult to handle for urban reconnaissance. “Simpler and more responsive, the mini-drone can provide discrete monitoring and observation missions but over short distances and durations. The problem still pending for this vector is the legal framework for implementation because the aviation regulations are particularly strict, especially since the drone evolves above urban space,” said the prefecture white paper.

The use of drones is also being studied in the area of monitoring road networks. Yes, mobile radar could become an aerial mobile radar in the coming years: we will have to monitor the meters.

INSPECT THE RAIL NETWORK

You may not find sockets in your TGV, but this is not the case that SNCF does not stop innovating. The company that takes care of our beautiful railways announced that it will modernize the monitoring of its railway system through drones. It is with the French Aerospace Research Centre that SNCF wants to deploy flying gear to have a permanent eye on tracks, catenaries or to spot if people would walk on the rails.

In November 2013, the SNCF experimented its first drone on the rock walls of Le Trayas, in the Var, to model the curves of the rock and thus control the risk of falls on the tracks. A use that therefore approaches the safeguarding of Christ of Rio, but applied to industry. Maybe they will come someday and serve you the coffee on board.

VALUING HERITAGE

You have a small, mobile and inexpensive flying machine, which you can fly without a license and which also includes cameras and Excellent quality cameras Why not take the opportunity to take a picture of the splendors of our beautiful national heritage? This is what Versailles did in its gardens to have new views of the castle.

A NEW MECHANICAL SPORT

Dubai hosted last March the first World Grand Prix Drone, a racer drone race, where the top 100 riders competed for a weekend and a young British woman just 15 years old won $250,000. The discipline was born a little more than a year ago and has since been gathering drivers per hundred in unusual locations to compete against each other thanks to machines specially developed to go fast to pass the finish line first. Today competitions are organized in fields between boyfriend up to the DRL tournament in the US broadcast on national channels with the dimension of an “American” show If you are passionate about the discipline, I recommend that you go to FPV Passion, where our dear Frederic explains everything!

APPS FOR TOMORROW

Transport, security, media, agriculture, inspections and technical data The drones have been revealing their potential for a few months now and technological advances make them even smarter, safer and almost indispensable already for certain trades. Research centers, universities, maker space bring together a huge community of developers and creators whose ideas and concepts flourish globally. Nothing seems to be wanting to stop this new technological boom and even if the miscellaneous facts from the general press about the exploits of some telepilots can sometimes cause trouble, let us not forget that Airprox (air incident reports) are written daily for manned aircraft.

There is no doubt that drones are now called to share our daily lives, regardless of their use, they bring a small revolution to everyone. But watch out for regulations , whether you practice for pleasure or for professional use, there are rules to follow and enforce, so that everyone can enjoy remotely piloting and that it can last over time.

Yan Helin.

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