Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs], are versatile machines that collect aerial data through aerial surveys, offering a different perspective than airplanes and satellites. They are unmanned unlike airplanes and overcome a serious problem in satellite imagery i.e. seeing underneath the clouds. Integrating them with existing technologies is empowering researchers with a lot of useful data that can serve us in protecting our environment.
Drones for delivery
Imagine how many delivery vehicles it can replace and how they can be made safer. For example, pizza can be delivered safely without the looming tension in the pizza guy’s head that he needs to deliver it within 30 minutes making his way through the city traffic. It can also do its bit in reducing pollution and fighting climate change.
Drones for climate research
Drones for climate research can be traced back to 1998. They were used to study the Arctic ice. They are an important part of the ongoing research on coral reefs and mangroves. Drones are used to identify dying colonies of these species to advance mitigation measures. The data that is collected from the atmosphere helps enhance our climate models leading to better forecasts.
Drones for wildlife conservation
Unlike handheld cameras, drones are equipped with GPS systems to geo-reference the images that are captured. It can be used to map animals’ distribution and density to perform ground-based efforts effectively. It can also be used to fight wildlife crime. Watch ecologist Lian Pin Koh make a persuasive case for using drones to protect the world’s forests and wildlife in this TED talk. But it seems someone is not taking this too well.
Drones for hurricane hunting
In a 1996 movie Twister, you’ll see Dorothy, the device that is designed to release hundreds of sensors into the center of a tornado to study its structure from the inside, with the purpose of creating a more advanced storm warning system. But what if something as simple as a drone does it? Well, it can. These are called Global Hawk drones.
Drones for search and rescue
If you have seen S.H.I.E.L.D., you’ll know how awesome the D.W.A.R.F.s (Drones Wirelessly Automated to Retrieve Forensics) are. They are a set of quad-copter robotic drones designed by Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons to seek out, analyze and scan forensic evidence at S.H.I.E.L.D. hot-spots.
In a similar way, firefighters don’t have to go into a burning place to assess the situation, they can simply send in the drones.
Drones for inspection
Drones can go where our eyes don’t necessarily need to. They can be used to inspect tall wind turbines for defects.
If you get your hands on one of these, what will you do?