It is the beginning of 2019 and by this far we have already witnessed so much of science and its wonders, how it has affected our lives and how we might even see our sky being ruled by flying taxis, flying cars or drones in the years to come. The drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) that are used in many applications, ranging from military to entertainment industry. The idea that was born during warfare is now being used in almost every field, may it be defense services to agriculture or environment monitoring to education.
From unmanned balloons loaded with explosives, to the birth of unmanned vehicles in 1959, the United States Air Force got into action to develop unmanned flights and employed more than 5000 UAV's to avoid losing pilots leading to more active and proficient fighting machines. Among these UAV's, the Predator is the most exemplary aircraft used for surveillance and investigation with the capability of accurate target pointing armed with Hellfire laser-guided missiles. It carried out more than 2050 successful missions in hundreds of separate raids between 2005 and 2006. By 2013, many countries were reported to be using unmanned aerial vehicles while some of which have already developed their own UAV machines for their defense and military purposes. The Research and Development budget for military drones is anticipated to reach around USD 4 Million by the end of 2023 where the U.S is expected to dominate the overall market of military drones as compared to the rest of the world. Maybe few years down the lane, we might encounter drones warfare from different countries replacing soldiers and avoiding mass causalities with no widows and no orphans, unless those drones are being used for firing bullets and dropping bombs!
Viktor E.Frankl once said, "We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters, is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement." Once such fateful tragedy happened in 2009 which later came to be known as ‘Miracle on the Hudson', where the U.S Airways Flight 1549 collided with a flock of Canada geese and lost its engine power but as luck would have it, it didn't crash because of the trained pilots who were able to perform water landing on Hudson River, saving all 155 people on board. It drove the engineers and researchers to develop an algorithm based on deep analysis of flock dynamics to shoo away the flock of birds from airport airspace. Caltech engineers tested their drone which is capable of driving away a flock with dozens of birds out a selected airspace and believe that there is still a long way to go for the expansion of the project to come into practice.
‘Safety' and ‘Privacy' are the two most understated words when it comes to the innovations of science and technology and despite the existing valid privacy concerns regarding these innovations, we are still at the mercy of technology.
Who could have imagined the delivery of products, medicines, food and postal services to be done by none other than drones? To reduce the delivery time and hassle of overcoming road traffic while delivering the ordered products, Amazon, the world's largest online shopping e-commerce company, introduced ‘Amazon Prime Air' in 2016, a service for the emergency orders via which you will get your product delivered to you within 30 minutes of delivery, only if its less than 5 pounds and the location is within the radius of 10 Miles. It is accomplished by autonomous drones meaning no human pilot is required as they do their own take-off, landing and coming back with the help of GPS and sense & avoid technology to avoid obstacles, collisions leading to crash or hurting our flying buddies. With FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations, the commercial drones cannot fly higher than 400ft and faster than 100mph. With ongoing advancement in drone technology, the drones are designed with respect to their area of usage, region and weight limit. Similarly, drones can transfer medicines or collect samples in otherwise remote regions while allowing paramedics to remotely observe the emergency situations and guide on-scene individuals through the medical attention needed in that condition.
Moving onto the wider area of applications, drones are effectively used in almost all sectors around the world owing to the comfort and monitoring facilities that they provide. The global drone market is estimated to reach the market valuation of USD 25 Billion by 2023, as analyzed by Research Nester, a leading service provider for strategic market research and consulting. It also includes its segmentation by applications into military activities, law enforcement, fire-fighting, precision agriculture, media & entertainment, search & rescue operations, retail, inspection & monitoring, surveying & mapping, do it yourself (DIY) drones and education.
The high-resolution aerial imaging and data collection of geographic information systems (GIS) is driving the demand for drones in emergency response and rescue operations combined with project management and planning in the transportation sector. Despite the time-consuming process, the aerial imagery by drones can cover large surface areas when it comes to the mapping, capturing and retrieving surface data. The high-resolution photos can measure Doppler shift in waves, help oil and gas companies to plan and execute offshore investigation combined with SAR (Search & Rescue) missions and deep-water drilling procedures.
When it comes to the agricultural drones, they have given agricultural farming a whole new meaning and have reduced the rigorous energy of farmers utilized in farming. They are used for precision farming to increase crop production by monitoring crop growth, storm damage and overall crop management by further helping the farmers to take better care of their crops owing to their performance and capability with ongoing innovations with agricultural drones. These are the multi-rotor drones that come with sensors, GPS, digital imaging recorder and controlling devices that can perform seed spraying, crop health monitoring and crop investigation. DJI MG-1S is one such example of smart and intelligent agricultural drones that saves time and money and helps to cover 60-80 acres of field in terms of spraying in just one day as compared to a full day taken by a worker to cover only about 0.70 acres of field. The MG-1S has three downward sensors that help to adjust its height according to the terrain without changing the spraying accuracy and flying speeds. Moreover, it is easy to maintain and repair as it can be dismounted easily. It also offers package management solution that can check the status of the aircraft as well as calculate the amount of field that has already been covered.
The sales of drones are expected to boom with the highest percentage in the agricultural segment as compared to other industries. According to Research Nester, the global agricultural drones market is anticipated to reach a valuation of around USD 3.7 Billion by the end of 2024.
One of the major concerns related to the drones market is that people might lose their jobs which by the way is another way around. According to the government of some regions, the drones market is expected to bring more significant jobs owing to its growth in numerous industries such as photography, videography, agriculture, home delivery, education and others with respect to the workforce required in manufacturing, drone operation and its maintenance. To hone the public safety and proficiency of American industry, the drone industry in the regions of the United States is anticipated to create thousands of new job opportunities. As far as the education is concerned, many universities across the globe are offering graduate and drone training courses in Unmanned Systems Applications.
Further, the global drones market in media and entertainment industry is growing with a massive pace owing to its applications in aerial filming to shoot commercials combined with creating special effects, capture footage or live broadcast for news and sports events, photography and videography for various events such as business gatherings or weddings. Additionally, the Drone Racing League and the World Drone Prix are the two most successful drone racing events that attracted audience around the globe with high financial support.
There is a significant growth in drones market in upcoming years owing to the adoption of drones in almost every sector while some of them are still in the testing phase. Even if few of them don't get approved, we can always make science fiction movies about them as our human brain is more prone to feed on imagination rather than the reality!