Over the years we’ve seen many gadgets shift from simply being toys and hobby accessories, such as the Raspberry Pi and webcams, to becoming enablers for innovation in business. But what about drones? What role do they play in the commercial landscape?

The origin of drones

The use of drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as they’re officially known, is something we have recently come to generally associate with hobby aircraft enthusiasts – especially as they’ve become smaller, cheaper, and more readily available on the high street shop shelves. But drones were originally designed for military use, as the allied forces worked to develop unmanned aircraft as early as the first World War. Drones are still heavily used in the military world, but their use has rapidly extended into other areas of public life as well as business.

Take a look at these 5 creative uses of drones:

  • Air-drop drones
    Amazon was one of the first companies to champion the concept of drone deliveries. The idea of having goods delivered to your doorstep with the help of ultra-light delivery drones seemed absolutely ludicrous to many when it was first discussed in 2013, but as Amazon’s proof-of-concept took flight in 2016 there suddenly seemed to be some viability to the ‘PrimeAir’ delivery model as it started to successfully navigate airspace regulations and technical hurdles.Meanwhile, Google’s own reciprocal service, Project Wing, is also in trial and promises to offer an alternative to on-demand delivery of various goods in the future. The same goes for UPS and DHL. But regardless of who takes off first, it seems that the reality of drone deliveries of online orders is no longer a science fiction dream but a near reality.
  • Temporary mobile coverage
    Drones can be useful in providing temporary internet coverage for remote areas, disaster zones or military sites. This is something already explored by BT, but has also been mentioned by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as a means of providing internet access to underprivileged areas of the world. If commercialised, this flying coverage can help to really change the dynamics of some of the world’s most vulnerable locations.
  • Flying food drones
    Restaurant chain YO! Sushi have experimented with drones for delivering orders to diners’ tables, using a flying food tray operated via an on-board Wi-Fi system connected to an iPad application. Waiters could steer the drone while built-in cameras allowed kitchen staff to monitor the successful delivery of the food to the table.
    The trial itself turned out to be somewhat disastrous, as the food would arrive cold and with plenty of spillage. With a bit of refinement of controls and drone stability, however, this technology may still spark new, creative ideas for the service industry to improve customer experience.
  • Farming
    Agricultural drones have been used on a large scale for several years, particularly in rice farming. The drones are used for measuring crop quality, spraying pesticides or fertiliser, carrying out automated planting, mapping topography and more.
    There are many obvious benefits to using drones in farming. They can of course cover great distances, but they can also be equipped with various types of diagnostic tools and cameras, providing real-time insight and forecasts. By being able to better predict yield and prevent drought and pests, drones now play a key part in supporting farmers to be more efficient than ever before.
  • Safety and Quality Inspections
    In West Sussex County Council, drones were used in a trial for inspecting bridges to ensure safety and structural stability. It was estimated that the savings amounted to about £8,000 compared to traditional inspections. But another important benefit of the use of drones in this scenario was the greatly reduced safety risk, as no inspectors needed to work at height and no traffic management needed to be set up.
    Drones can be used to dramatically cut the time, cost, and risk of inspections in many similar scenarios, such as high-rise building projects, mobile masts, power plants, oil rigs, ships, and more.

The future of drones in business

As drones are starting to deliver tangible business benefits, we’re likely to see more innovation and more creative uses of drone technology. The huge potential for automation, time and energy savings will ultimately benefit the industry as a whole, as we discover new ways of integrating hardware, software and Internet of Things.

How can your industry benefit from drone technology?