When business leaders used to speak of reaching for the sky, it was taken as a metaphor for setting high business goals.
But now, whether your firm is in retail, construction, security or sports, the skies may be a genuine source of commercial advantage. Rapidly improving technology and lower costs mean civilian and commercial drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – are hovering on the very edge of the mainstream.
As reaction to Jeremy Clarkson’s new advert with Amazon has proven, the concept of deliveries flying through the skies to our homes seems to thrill and appall in equal measure.
2016 is going to be a critical year for the nascent technology. Here are four predictions for the coming 12 months in the sky:
Drones are already being used commercially on a scale that may surprise the public. Devon and Cornwall Police has trialled the use of drones to monitor traffic accidents, search for missing people and to record crime scenes. Additionally, UAV’s are being used in farming to gather data on mass, which is a real area of growth in the industry.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. From archaeologists getting a quick and easy overview of an excavation site to wildlife rangers monitoring for poachers, the potential is endless. We are also seeing a significant increase in the use of drones in quarrying and mining.
In Europe one can expect to see more trials of drones in rural areas. As legislators decide how to ensure UAVs use is as safe as possible, it’s natural to test the waters (or skies) in sparsely populated areas. It may not just be hawks you spot on your next trip to the country.
Both Australia and the US have seen drones used to deliver medical equipment to remote areas in the past year. As drone battery life and Sense-and-Avoid capabilities rapidly improve, such procedures will become more frequent.
But I also expect 2016 to see more UAVs deployed in response to disasters or emergency situations. The potential of drones to help emergency services is almost limitless. From providing a critical overview of a disaster area to delivering blood supplies to carrying infrared thermal imaging cameras to help locate earthquake victims, drones can help save lives.
And whilst drones may also pose their own security risks (see prediction four), it’s likely police and security services will expand on their current limited use to help in everything from event security to monitoring illegal activity.
Just as the planes that fill the sky above us navigate along designated air traffic corridors, so will the skies have to be plotted and shaped for the mushrooming use of commercial drones.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is already taking on this task and in 2015 it started looking at proposals for how best to open European civil airspace up to UAVs. When it comes to ‘drone aircraft corridors’, Europe has been far more progressive than the United States.
The USA’s Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has been viewed by some as more conservative in its reaction to the commercial drones. So much so that Newsweek reported earlier this year that Amazon has opened a research centre in England to develop its delivery service as Europe is more ‘forward-leaning’ in its approach to drone regulations.
Increasing use of drones by European security and emergency services mean that the formalization of drone corridors are a case of ‘when and how’, rather than ‘if’. Expect major progress in 2016.
Five years ago the FAA predicted that come 2020 there would be approximately 15,000 drones in the US. That’s actually less than how many are sold each month in the States.
The spurt has caught legislators on the back foot and there’s no question that drone use must be carefully regulated. As with all new technology (think driverless cars) public opinion is a mixture of awe, fear, excitement and suspicion and the use of drones by criminals, paparazzi and terrorists are obvious public concerns.
High profile incidents of drones crashing on the White House Lawn or being used in an attack on the Japanese Prime Minister’s office will mean caution remains the guiding principle. And while it’s vital the issue generates considered and calculated legislative debate, the obvious benefits drones can bring society should add an extra urgency to the discussion.
Whilst 2016 should see progress made in relation to drone corridors, overall there’s unfortunately unlikely to be major strides made in the overall regulation of drones.
So while the skies won’t be buzzing with drones quite yet, there will certainly be more of a buzz on the ground about them than ever before.
See the article on TheNextWeb.com: Predictions for 2016: The year of the business drone
Image credit: Shutterstock
In a continuation of our long tradition of mapping in the Golf industry, Future Aerial has partnered with the worlds largest indoor Golf simulator company – GOLFZON – to map the most prestigious golf courses.
Future Aerial has a strong pedigree in high accuracy mapping and modelling for the worlds most prestigious golf competitions and architects which is why, when the leading manufacturer and supplier of Golf simulator products started its campaign to map the UK’s top golf courses they came to Future Aerial.
The anatomy of a Ryder cup course
Below is the digitisation of the stunning Celtic Manor 2010 Ryder Cup course which will be playable alongside many other prestigious UK and Irish courses by 1.5 million Golfzon customers in the coming months.
Overview of the Roman Road and Montgomery courses at Celtic Manor
When the mapping is completed the Golfing begins!
Golfzon customers expect the most real representation of a course as possible, when you play a Golfzon simulator mapped by Future Aerial you play a millimetre accurate digital version of the real thing, every lump and bump is converted into the digital model, the results are both true to life and visually stunning.
If you want to understand more about our work within the golf industry please get in touch
The Avon gorge is one of the most familiar landmarks in Bristol, a geological marvel that has played an important role in shaping the local inhabitants since the Iron Age.
As some of the cliff faces boarder a road, detailed surveys of the gorge need to be carried out at regular intervals. Ordinarily such geological surveys involve teams of climbers working in difficult and dangerous conditions over a significant period of time and frequently leads to road closures with resulting traffic disruption and cost to the city council who are required to ensure that the cliff face poses no threat to the road below. In an ever increasing effort to modernise, save cost and create efficiencies the city council commissioned a detailed survey of a two- kilometre stretch of the cliff face on the Clifton side of the gorge using the latest drone and sensor technology.
Future Aerial were selected to capture the large amounts of high definition imagery and data whilst working closely with engineering consultants XEIAD to create a detailed analysis of the rock faces. The imagery has been used to create a 3D map of the gorge that can be revisited and referenced to analyse areas of interest or concern. The project is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere in the country.
Below is a low resolution 3D model of a section of the cliff face.
At present, Hydro Power provides around 12% of Scotland’s power with considerable potential to expand this through small scale hydroelectric schemes. Future Aerial have recently been working in the Highlands of Scotland to provide topographic survey data to help in the design and building of such small scale hydro schemes.
Typically, hydro schemes are in mountainous valleys, difficult to access by foot which means standard surveys methods are simply not cost effective. Step up Future Aerial with the capability to accurately map large areas by drone. What would have taken weeks, possibly months to survey all three sites took a mere three days.
This is just another great example of what can be achieved through combining the power of drone technology with the GIS knowledge and expertise of Future Aerial.
Following on from our earlier post about Future Aerial being awarded (by English Heritage) the project to map Tintagel Castle, we are proud to announce the landmark survey was successfully completed. The combination of state of the art UAV tech, the skills of the Future Aerial pilots and data processing systems with the world renound English Heritage Geospatial Imaging Team has resulted in some jaw-dropping 3D output.
An island facing the full wrath of the Atlantic Ocean was always going to be a tough survey nut to crack. When the weather reports say calm and sunny, you can be sure that Tintagel has a quick chuckle and throws a gale! Fortunately, Future Aerial utilise some superb UAV technology and the best pilots around to deal with conditions which would send most others packing.
Setting the project apart was the combination of two UAV platforms (fixed wing and multi-rotor) with manual and autonomous flights to capture vertical and oblique imagery of the Island’s every nook and cranny. The project deliverables were very detailed and specific, requiring every inch of the Island to be captured from the correct angles with minutely defined image overlap levels feeding into the ‘Structure-from-Motion’ photogrammetry to produce an accurate and complete model. Future Aerial’s experience and knowledge of photogrammetric model building meant that the data captured fulfilled all requirements.
English Heritage are currently working with the data to complete a new exhibition for July 2015. When it goes live, we’ll be sure to update you with the stunning 3D models. It’s all under wraps for now but watch this space. In the mean time, here are a few behind the scenes pics of the UAVs in action to wet the appetite.
Interesting and thorough article on the commercial use of drones by the Economist.
“Drones can improve safety, adds Dillon’s John Fairs. They are increasingly used to inspect wind turbines for cracks instead of workers kitted out with climbing gear. Drones are also being operated for power-line inspections. As this can involve lowering from a helicopter engineers clad in insulating suits and safety harnesses to crawl along a pair of high-voltage cables strung shoulder-width apart, it can be a “recipe for disaster”, adds Mr Fairs.
Data collected by drone are often more accurate than information gathered by other means. Fitted with two cameras for stereo vision, a drone called AeroHawk can map the dimensions and contours of a road at a resolution of about 2cm, says Scott McTavish, boss of a British Columbian firm called Accuas that surveys infrastructure. The best a commercial satellite can offer is about 30cm, but it could take more than four months to book one and might cost at least $10,000, adds Mr McTavish. The aircraft-like AeroHawk does not need a runway. It is tossed into the air and recovered by parachute.”
Real world structural modelling:
A big part of what we do at Future Aerial is create 3 dimensional models with imagery and geo data taken from our mapping flights with drones. although this is a fun illustration and an attractive subject it highlights the complex processes we can employ for purposes such as computer game design and simulations for visitor attractions.
An accurate and ultra high definition image of a difficult access structure is an invaluable tool to engineers for analysis and historical structural change monitoring. With repeated visits we are able to add historical layers to the models and identify exactly where any deterioration is occurring.
“Sense & Avoid: The Technology to Watch” writes Megan Roden
Future Aerial tends to agree and it’s going to be an interesting challenge to solve. Interesting discussions to be had at @SkyTechEvent next year…
Full article here: http://www.skytechevent.com/#!sense–avoid-the-technology-to-watch/c1koc
Technological innovation is spreading across every angle of the commercial UAV industry, with everything from batteries to gimbals undergoing revolutionary changes. One such technology that stands at the heart of the UAV industry is “sense and avoid”.
Comprehensive sense and avoid technology is a must if the commercial UAV sector is to achieve its full potential. At present, UAVs cannot autonomously detect or avoid other UAVs, aircraft or obstacles such as buildings, and therefore present a severe concern for mid-air collisions.