Head out to almost any scenic location and there’s a good chance you’ll run into someone with a drone. Today’s drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are made with extremely lightweight materials, efficient motors, and small, powerful CPUs, all in an affordable package. Because of their reliability and affordability, drones are becoming popular with flying enthusiasts and photographers.
But drones aren’t just fancy toys or elaborate photographic tools. Several industries are increasingly using UAVs for a wide range of purposes, from aerial mapping and surveying to monitoring conditions of manufacturing facilities to tracking endangered species.
These business-oriented drones require more precision and reliability than their consumer-level cousins, but currently, most manufacturers are building drones designed for amateur use. A few companies, including Intel, offer UAVs designed specifically to meet the performance needs of businesses.
The Intel Falcon 8+ drone is a good example of a UAV designed for professional use—it includes multiple electronic redundancies for communication and power, high-precision automation, and stability controls that help compensate for wind and electromagnetic fields. Most amateur drone users don’t need these high-end features, but the features can be critical for professionals who need to precisely replicate a route, take close-up videos of sensitive equipment, or just ensure that the UAV doesn’t suddenly fail inside delicate machinery or in an irretrievable location.
Here are three brief examples of how these professional UAVs are being used to reduce costs, improve safety, and improve efficiency for a variety of industries and organizations.
Pre-flight Checks on an Airplane Assembly Line
Airplane manufacturers are required to carefully inspect new planes for defects or damage. But inspecting a 110-foot long, 40-foot tall structure by hand is slow and difficult, because inspectors need to carefully manipulate cranes around the aircraft.
As a result, Airbus is gradually replacing its manual inspections with UAV-enabled inspections, which can accomplish the same task much faster and more safely. The UAVs take high-quality aerial photos that are then analyzed using custom software that allows inspectors to identify and document any damage and necessary repairs. An Intel Falcon 8+ drone can perform a full inspection flight and take 150 high-definition photos in about 10 minutes.
Monitoring Industrial Facilities and Utilities for Safety and Maintenance
Several industries are also putting UAVs to work inspecting hard-to-reach or dangerous areas. For example, UAVs are used by oil and gas companies to inspect oil rigs and cooling towers for damage or safety issues. By using UAVs, the operators can perform inspections with less downtime and with less risk to workers.
Creating Accurate Site Surveys for Construction
UAVs are also being deployed at constructions sites because they can speed up and simplify site monitoring and safety inspections. They are also great for helping engineers create detailed 3D site models that can be used for new construction or for renovations—particularly on sites where existing blueprints don’t provide enough detail.
A construction firm can guide a UAV around a site to capture hundreds or thousands of photos. The images can then be rendered into a photorealistic 3D model using specialized software, such as Autodesk ReCap Photo. This process offers companies a greater level of detail at a fraction of the time and cost typically required for surveying and drafting a site.
Business Drones are Just Beginning to Take Off
UAVs have already made themselves invaluable as tools for improving safety, quality, and precision across a wide range of fields. The popularity and use of drones is likely to increase rapidly as organizations continue to discover innovative uses for them. For more examples of the ways businesses are using Intel drones, see the Intel iQ website. And to stay current on evolving technologies like drones, follow Prowess on our blog or on Twitter or LinkedIn.