Drones are increasingly filling our skies—taking photos, creating maps, and even racing. But it turns out, there are some unexpected and creative ways people are putting drone technology into action.
Let’s take a look at some unique use cases for drones.
1. Exploring the Oceans
Most people think of drones as something that fly in the air, but a drone really is anything that can operate autonomously. Christine Spiten, co-founder of a company called Blueye Robotics, developed an underwater drone called ‘The Pioneer,’ which can travel up to 150 meters below the surface (that’s 8 times the depth an average scuba diver can go) to explore the ocean. The first prototype was used to investigate the connection between marine litter and people’s health in the Atlantic Ocean, mapping marine litter around shipwrecks. Underwater drones can be useful in showing people that the ocean is beautiful, but also fragile and vulnerable.
2. Improve Coffee Production
Coffee farming is a relatively large industry in Kenya, but farmers typically only make about 20 cents per pound off coffee grown. Most Kenyan farmers can’t afford fertilizer, which is one of the critical inputs in coffee production (a well-managed coffee farm can produce up to 30 pounds of coffee per tree, but a coffee farm that can’t afford fertilizer produces more like five pounds of coffee per tree).
Lyela Mutisya is studying how drones can be used for precision agriculture, collecting data to help coffee farmers improve crop help. Drones can have a role in efficient crop scouting, earlier yield predictions, earlier crop stress detection, enhanced irrigation management and control, and more precise nutrient and chemical applications.
3. Cirque du Soleil Performances
Drones are being used in theater too! The Broadway incarnation of Cirque du Soleil called “Paramour” included drones disguised as lampshades, dancing around the stage. The drones, which performed in more than 398 live performances with more than 7,000 autonomous take-offs, flights and landings, were built by Swiss-based company Verity Studios.
4. As Fireworks
Lest you think the extent of drones for entertainment is on the stage, they’re also lighting up the night sky. Intel is among the companies producing light shows with drones, which fly in coordinated patterns and change colors in four billion color combinations to make light shapes in the sky.
Intel’s drones have been serving as nighttime entertainment at events such as Coachella, the Super Bowl and Walt Disney World. Rather than fading out like fireworks, the drones flash on and off to create much more precise shapes than fireworks would. They also are intended to reduce the environmental impact that fireworks have on air pollution.
5. Protecting Animals from Poachers
Software engineers have devised analytical models of how animals, poachers, and rangers simultaneously move through space and time by combining high resolution satellite imagery with loads of big data—everything from moon phases, to weather, to previous poaching locations, to info from rhinos’ satellite ankle trackers. That information can predict where the animals and poachers will be.
If you had a drone, how would you use it? Leave your comment below!