Error message

  • Warning: include(/var/www/ failed to open stream: No such file or directory in include() (line 361 of /var/www/
  • Warning: include(/var/www/ failed to open stream: No such file or directory in include() (line 361 of /var/www/
  • Warning: include(): Failed opening '/var/www/' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/php') in include() (line 361 of /var/www/

More and more drones overhead

Drones are being employed in more and more civilian activities. Before long we’ll be seeing them swarming around our cities and delivering all kinds of goods.

July 2014

Drone IMA Lab Pharma

The word “drone” has entered our vocabulary through media coverage of what are technically “predator drones”, in other words pilotless flying devices for military use.

But since Amazon’s announcement in December 2013 promising to deliver Christmas gifts using drones, we’ve started to become more aware of their civil applications: these are growing extremely rapidly, to the point where it looks like drones will soon populate the skies in our big cities. So the establishment of clear rules regarding how they are operated and by whom, and how to stop them posing a threat to normal aerial traffic, is becoming more and more urgent.

The correct technical term for drones is Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). They come in all shapes and sizes: they can look like airplanes many meters in length, or like one-meter helicopters, or they can measure less than a centimeter and be designed to resemble an insect, complete with tiny flapping wings. The latter, known as microdrones, being both unobtrusive and pervasive, are obviously used for espionage purposes.

Drones also vary in terms of range, maximum flying time, achievable altitude and top weight-carrying capacity. Current performance can reach a range of 500 km and flight missions of 48 hours.

Drones are equipped with camcorders and cameras, often for special usage such as thermography or night-vision with special infrared rays, and other data-capture instruments.
They are used for reaching otherwise inaccessible places, or places that would be highly dangerous for pilots, or to film places and situations from otherwise impossible angles.
Drones are being used to carry out spectacular filming for the cinema, commercials and live events such as concerts or football matches (like kick-offs shot vertically from overhead).

They are also used for surveying and studying vast areas. They can photograph landscapes with thousands of digital images which can then be stitched together into 3-D maps, or monitor specific areas for various reasons. Drones have been used for filming and measuring archeological sites, for monitoring vast areas to check for outbreaks of forest fire and - still in ecological or meteorological contexts - to observe glacier movement, storms and hurricanes.
U.S. authorities, for example, use drones for Hurricane Hunting, because they can charge into the heart of a storm without any risk to human life and limb.

Drones are also used for monitoring sea life, as in whale watching, or for tracking endangered species like orangutans in Sumatra. The WWF flies drones over natural reserves and parks in the hope of spotting poachers.
Drones are invaluable for the farming industry, making it possible to monitor livestock movements and crop conditions with precision and rapidity while cutting down the need for the physical movement of farmworkers.

And they have important uses for dealing with health problems and emergencies, especially in cases of urgent delivery of medical supplies, such as vaccines, antidotes or defibrillators for people in emergency situations in remote areas. For example, an injured victim of an automobile accident in Saskatchewan, Canada, had his life saved by a search-and-rescue drone with heat-sensing equipment that found the victim before a potentially fatal night outdoors in subfreezing temperatures.

The most immediate commercially exploitable applications for drones are connected with delivery. As we have said, Amazon has announced that it has been experimenting with "octocopters," unmanned drones for delivering their goods.

Currently, civil drones cannot transport loads exceeding 5 pounds (slightly less than 2.5 kilos), but actually 84% of the packages delivered by Amazon weigh less than that.

The numbers involved here are staggering: in 2012 the United States Postal Service delivered 3.5 billion packages and UPS delivered 4,107,000 packages.
Just think what it would mean if a significant part of this huge traffic could be handled by drones, and imagine the scale of the business opportunities involved.

If delivery-by-drone were to be implemented, more deliveries could be made with the same number of employees, but it would also mean fewer cars and trucks on the road and increased convenience for customers and employees alike. But it won't be easy — there are a lot of deliveries to be made and quite a lot of rules still to be defined.

In 2013 the Federal Aviation Administration released its first “Roadmap” explaining what will be needed in order to safely integrate the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the U.S.A’s national airspace. The five-year plan discusses three phases that include the “accommodation” of existing UAS on a limited basis, the “integration” of future UAS — including establishing performance standards for their construction and operation — and the “evolution” of the latter to ensure that today’s rules and regulations can be adaptable to the rapidly changing usage and development of UAS potential in the United States.

In other words, it seems that we are about to witness yet another of the series of revolutions which characterize our age. We will be able to observe the world as though we were flying in the sky, whether to check the tiling on our roof or to peer inside a volcano. And while trekking through the remotest geographical areas we’ll be able to summon a drone to bring us a life-saving medicine… or a simply a mouth-watering pizza.