As the new technology of drones expands, new ideas continue to evolve and come to light. We are intrigued by the capabilities of drones and UAVs but at the same time worry about their integration. As with any new technology, it is met with mixed emotions and feelings.
I tend to focus on the benefits a new technology can bring to society. The benefits from the UAV industry seem to expand on a daily, if not hourly basis. With new ideas being developed continuously, it creates exciting opportunities for people and companies to not only develop this industry, but develop it with a goal of solving problems for people.
As I think about the costs associated with manpower to carry out numerous tasks, drones seem to be taking first chair at filling these needs. From pothole repair and reconnaissance, brush fire surveillance, insurance evaluations, disaster response, drones can operate and gather information expanding the capabilities of us on the ground to focus on more tasks.
Pothole repair for example. Anyone who's had to navigate around potholes knows how inefficient humans can be at fixing infrastructure - which is why one group of researchers at the UK's is now looking into enlisting fleets of drones to solve our repair woes.
A recent example of UAV aerial survey developed by students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh developed a program for drones to detect potholes in roads. This technology is similar to the cancer detection patterns currently used to identify tumors in an MRI. By scanning road surfaces, the drone is capable of determining irregular shapes that are not consistent with things like manhole covers. Upon detection, the GPS coordinates and image could be transmitted to an engineering department where they would then be able to schedule work on repairing them.
Allowing drones to monitor and assess roadways frees up those workers from having to drive around and locate potholes, allowing them to focus on just fixing them. Using technology to improve efficiency here is a plus.
Energy Infrastructure Surveys
Shifting to energy infrastructure, GE is thinking a fleet of flying robots using UAV Aerial Survey capabilities could help them identify trouble areas in power lines. By taking a picture of the area, sending GPS coordinates in real time to utility workers the requirement for survey time is nearly eliminated. Think of the capability... In 2012 Hurricane Sandy struck and devastated the entire Eastern Seaboard. Deploying a fleet of drones, pre-programmed with specific routes to fly, mapping the damage in real time and offering real time video feeds of the damage would allow teams to mobilize in the most effective and efficient manner to quickly repair power services. GE is actively looking at incorporating drones into their business model and evaluating numerous pilot projects as the industry evolves.
Reducing manpower by providing real time video, data, and location allows key personnel to determine the best response to any given number of survey requirements in many different industries. Quick decisions can be made and skilled employees can be allocated to correcting problems rather than locating them.