What can you do with a drone?

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)

drone cow

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

delivery drone

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

selfie drone

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

drone legal

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:

  • Drones may not fly above large crowds and must be kept at least 30m away from other people
  • Drones may not fly higher than 400ft (120m) above ground level
  • Drones may not be operated during fires, floods or other situations where they may hinder emergency assistance.
  • An operator may only fly one drone at a time

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.

Image credits


  1. Geoff Murphy says:

    I could certainly see an application for drones in large site security undertakings, such as mine sites, see ports, container terminals perhaps even oil refineries and large warehouse environments.

  2. wayne wells says:

    Over the last ten years i have found thousands of ancient ruins,shipwrecks,Gold deposits and crashed UFOs on Google earth.If i had a drone i would check out some of these locations from Google earth.One ship wreck in particular off the coast of Australia would be great to check out

  3. claude balls says:

    where is the safety, people are going to get injured by those blades,all should be enclosed.

  4. Ken Gray says:

    I would like to investigate using a drone to ward-off pesty animals and birds from commercial melon and pumpkin crops.

  5. Malcolm Imrie says:

    Tamborine Mountain Rural Fire Brigade is using a drome to map wildfires in difficult terrain. Instead of sending a vehicle with crew down a fire trail to establish the location and rate of spread. The plan is for a single operator with a drone to fly and map the fire. Early days yet but results so far are positive.

  6. JOhn says:

    Cool,interesting report. Nice to read an occasional relevant article from a staff member. Has a kinda friendly appeal.


  7. Robert Senn says:

    Brilliant article we sure do live in a fast changing world just wish we could live in peace.

  8. Mike says:

    As a conservationist I think they could be great for spotting weeds – but I’m concerned about how they affect wildlife, birds, rodents, skinks….

  9. Greg Welsby says:

    I would like to take a drone with me on my next overseas holiday – to take selfies like while on a river cruise boat; aerial shots & videos of tourist attractions & scenery. A friend has just taken one with her on a road trip Brisbane – Thursday Island – Brisbane & has posted some amazing photos & videos.

  10. Patricia says:

    A Drone could provide better filming of horseracing at more points than presently filmed, especially at country tracks not often used.

  11. Greg says:

    Drones have the potential to become an awesome military weapon when combined with small high definition cameras, sophisticated & light weight armaments including missiles, and laser-guided targeting technology using GPS and remote control. Instead of Australia spending $50 + M on building 12 new submarines which may or may not eventuate in 14-15 years time, why don’t we invest a fraction of this to make us a leader in drone technology?

  12. ultralibertarian says:

    I don’t know about Phantom 1 & 2, but DJI’s Phantom 3 (and I would guess Phantom 4) does not just fall out of the sky after losing battery power. Phantom quadcopters use GPS and Glonass (Russian version of GPS) + smart batteries and on-board technology to calculate how much battery power is needed to return to it’s takeoff co-ordinates from wherever it happens to be and then once the lowest acceptable battery level is reached the quadcopter will return safely on it’s own whether the operator wants it or not. Of course the same action can be achieved by also hitting the home button before the batteries get low. The quadcopter rises or falls to a predetermined height (above trees and buildings), heads to it’s home spot and then drops vertically until it lands (nicely). So sayeth the manual, and I’ve tested it on my own Phantom 3. Phantom 4 is even more clever.. it is autonomously capable of avoiding objects in it’s way as it travels. It’s track record may even be better than driverless cars, so far.

  13. Gez says:

    Perfect for locating missing bushwalkers or avalanche victims – with thermal imaging attached.

  14. Phil Voss says:

    I would like to know if blade protectors have any affect on the drones performance. It would be interesting to see if there is any significant difference and wether blade protected drones could be aloud in crowd areas still being required to maintain appropriate safety distances.

  15. Peter says:

    Drone fishing is already taking off (pun intended). Could be used for shark spotting, Getting a life preserver to someone in distress, assisting search and rescue, the uses are limitless.