Drones aren’t a brand new invention on the tech market, but they’ve certainly become much more widespread in use over the past few years – after all, anything that’s been the subject matter of a South Park episode is bound to be a popular topic.
A serious upgrade from your average remote-controlled helicopter toy, a typical drone has a quadcopter design and a built-in camera for film and photography.
Drones have become a hit with hobbyists across the globe, so it was only a matter of time before some business-savvy entrepreneurs figured out how to use drones to turn a profit.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways drone are being used for commercial gain, plus new Australian laws coming into effect which will change the way drones are allowed to operate.
Taking surveys (no, not that kind)
Naturally the camera component of a drone plays a big part in its business applications, and not just for getting unique photography angles and famous landmarks and beautiful scenery (although it’s worth noting that the real estate industry has begun generating regular demand for drone photography). Much more cost effective than hiring a helicopter, drones open up a more accessible way to survey large areas of land from above for construction and civil planning.
The agriculture industry takes this one step further by utilising drones to remotely map their crops and check their growth progress and condition. With the right equipment, it’s even possible to implement aerial thermal imaging to monitor greenhouses and detect plant diseases, saving hours of labour that would be otherwise spent checking the crops manually.
Getting goods from A to B
Perhaps one of the most controversial uses of drones outside of military applications, delivering physical products via drone has been discussed for a long time but the real-world practice faces a lot of obstacles. After all, with no human physically present to guard the goods, many people have joked about shooting the machines out of the sky to claim a potluck prize of some poor soul’s online shopping order. Despite all of this, some companies are forging ahead and working drones into their delivery operations.
In April this year, Australia Post announced that they would be the first major logistics company in the country to conduct drone delivery trials for small parcels. Provided the service could be operated securely, this development could pave the way for quick delivery of time-critical items such as medicine, or just add a bit more excitement to your average parcel delivery. You can check out one of the test flights here.
A product which has considerably lower stakes than online shopping orders is take-out food. Domino’s Pizza has recently joined forces with drone company Flirtey for trialling drone pizza delivery in New Zealand and they already have their eyes on other countries, including Australia. We can’t decide whether we prefer the idea of pizza being delivered by airborne drone or DRU, the adorable pizza robot unveiled this year.
Ditching the selfie stick
This is a bit of a fun one – created by Australian inventor Simon Kantor, the ROAM-e drone is essentially a flying selfie stick. That’s right: if you’re prepared to pay up, you can wave goodbye to looking like a dork in public and having awkward arm angles in all of your holiday shots. The ROAM-e is also packing facial recognition software so it will track the movement of your face rather than the location of your paired smartphone which acts as a controller, allowing for some pretty awesome-looking camera angles and better ease-of-use.
For most of us, a selfie is just a bit of fun and we don’t expect to make any money off our mugshots, but for trendy bloggers collecting ad revenue from the views of their 50+ thousand followers, the ROAM-e just might give their content the creative edge needed to keep people’s interest.
How the Australian legal landscape will change
Revised Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations are coming into effect, changing the way Australians may use remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) which has become the official legal term for drones. Previously, all drones being flown commercially required prior approval from CASA, regardless of their size. However, as of 29 September 2016, very small drones (under 2kg) will have reduced regulatory requirements, cutting some of the red tape before flight. Anything larger will require a remote pilot license to fly, with the exception of medium (25-150kg) drones being flown over privately owned land, so that’s good news for some tech-savvy farmers.
Naturally, there are a number of standard operating regulations in place to keep drone use as safe as possible for both recreational and business operators, such as:
This might put a damper on some people’s plans to take pics at their next music festival, but it’s fair enough. After all, drones still have a relatively short battery life and the last thing the technology needs is an incident with a crash-landing drone taking someone’s eye out at Splendour in the Grass.
What are you doing/would like to do with a drone? Tell us about it in the comments.