Drones, or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are unmanned aircraft. At present they exist with a great variety of forms, sizes and characteristics depending on the use to which they are destined. These devices have great potential in very diverse areas because they can move through areas of high risk or difficult access and overcome any obstacle, offering aerial images and collecting different data without endangering the life of any crew.
Despite its military origin, the civil market has known its potential and today many companies use drones to perform different tasks:
Cartography and Topography
The most common is the use of drones to perform topographic measurements in areas with difficult access. The functions of these devices are mainly two; On the one hand they can photograph in a great detail a specific area and although this method is less precise than others it allows to have more information for the development of the work or project. In addition certain drones have a laser that can make a representation of the terrain using a cloud of points (LIDAR technology). Once that cloud of points is obtained it is passed to a plane or map.
The advantages of using UAVs compared to other measurement technologies lie mainly in the fact that drones allow data to be taken in real time and because they are small in size they can be easily transported. Previously the usual method to carry out these tasks was the contracting of small planes that made the measurements, fact that could be delayed months due to the little availability of aerial means.
These devices are an option to ensure the protection of the environment. UAV protection is not only from monitoring and control, but also to actively combat pollution. They can also record the evolution of the vegetation of areas afforested after the fire, study plants in danger of extinction or carry out the monitoring of the fauna. The low sound level of the electric drones allows to observe wild species in their natural habitat without disturbing its life cycle.
In Japan, the government has also begun to use these devices to combat air pollution, as these airplanes can load up to 700 kilos of chemicals used to clean air pollution.
Drones are an excellent tool to minimize and control possible natural hazards, such as forest fires, volcanic eruptions or hurricanes. One of these examples is Nitrofirex, a Spanish business project that proposes “Unmanned Self-Propelled Glider Deposits (DPA)”. These drones would be suitable for firefighting operations: they can hold up to 2,500 liters of water (half of a conventional tanker), do not carry people to these risky missions and can fly even at night, when the planes must land even though the Fire continues.
At the landscape level, the visual impact of large works can be estimated.
Control and monitoring of facilities. An example in our country is the electric company Endesa that is already using drones equipped with cameras of high resolution, to record and to check the state of the electrical network.
Agriculture could be another of the main drivers of UAVs for civil uses, since they allow the control and monitoring of crop status through multispectral images. Also for the control of irrigation efficiency or for the counting and supervision of subsidized agricultural production (number of units). One such example is the French company Airinov has created a model for mapping agricultural land.
These devices represent a great tool to guarantee the protection of the environment, to improve the profitability of the crops and the territorial management.