Go to any park these days and you will likely see a drone, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in flight. You can not only find drones in parks, drones have made their place in multiple industries all around the world. And the various aviation to technology media is also ripe with many stories in most industries and applications of this relatively new technology of the last ten years.
Drones are no longer reserved for movie makers or niche hobbyists but are utilized in multiple industries. They are considered to be a cost effective and safe aviation alternative tool. Drones are capable of exploring complex and unknown spaces without the risks of harming team members.
Working with drones is one of the latest technological innovations of the past decade and the growing industry has too much to offer to be missed. A Deloitte Access Economics report found that the drone sector would help businesses save nearly $9. 3 billion; $2.4 billion for the mining industry, $2.95 billion for the agricultural, forestry and fishing industry and $1,34 billion for the construction industry.
Let’s explore the many benefits of using drones in the natural resources sector; from aerial applications, transmission line inspections, pipeline patrols, wind turbine inspections to underground mines mapping.
Drones in the Mining sector
Drones in mining improve the overall efficiency of large mine site and quarry management by providing accurate and comprehensive data, detailing site conditions such as drone data provides more precise volumetric measurements than traditional surveying methods, such as ground based GNSS (survey resolution made by drones have 350 times more data points than GNSS).
They are used when mine mapping, therefore accessing hazardous areas with challenging topography without putting field crews at risk. The drone’s aerial images can be used to create 3D reconstruction of a mining site and allows a better forecasting of the mineral stock availability.
Time efficiency, high accuracy of the data and site-safety improvement are the biggest benefits of using drones in the mining sector.
Drones in the Oil & Gas sector
Drones in the Oil & Gas sector provide a cost effective and safe solution for onshore and offshore sites. The devices can carry out aerial, underground and undersea explorations. In addition to providing visual images, they can carry out other functions such as water sampling and creating 3D maps.
The main applications of drones in the Oil & Gas sector are: (1) remote monitoring and surveillance, (2) inspection and predictive maintenance, and (3) methane management.
Drones are useful in remote monitoring to observe the progress of facilities that are under construction unmanned with a complete 360-degree view. They can be customized with ultrasonic sensors and visual inspection technologies in order to carry close-range inspection for pipelines or the exterior of hard-to-reach surfaces. Methane management is another challenge that drones can help with, by mounting methane leak sensors on drones, Oil & Gas companies can have real-time data informing them on methane leaks.
Generally, most drones have flexible plug and play payload, others may combine several sensors and abilities to perform complex inspection and process the data. Major benefits of using the UAVs include improved safety, low cost, gathering and providing detailed visual and other inspection data from critical assets. By providing regular, inexpensive, and fast inspections, the drones improve efficiency and productivity.
Drones in the Healthcare sector
Telehealth and virtual healthcare are becoming more and more common as the pandemic brought new limitations and renewed the emphasis on innovative ways to reach remote patients.
Telehealth alone can be quite limited as there’s no physical reach to the patients and the diagnosis is only made with the patient’s descriptions.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) have created a prototype that could integrate basic telehealth services into a drone bringing a physical aspect to the interaction between remote patients and health experts.
These drones are semi-autonomous and can be sent directly to patient’s homes, they are integrated with autonomous systems such as artificial intelligence and sensors in order to navigate complex three-dimension environments such as apartments or homes. They are big enough to carry medicine, medical supply and to collect tests. They display screens and cameras in order to connect patients and health experts in real-time.
Further with the advent of 5G, the future of the drone industry may see autonomous flights. With no need for a pilot, drones tapping into 5G networks and equipped with AI-powered navigation systems will proliferate. This will introduce the beginning of offering more services at scale from search and rescue to parcel delivery. Drones have the potential to replace the traditional manual inspection methods and provide better and more detailed data while reducing safety risks, costs, and operational downtime.