Do you know that drones, also called unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), have practical applications that have nothing to do with weapons or espionage? No? Here are a few to consider:
1. They can save lives.
In natural and manmade disasters, UAS can be positioned to survey damage, locate stranded and injured victims, and assess ongoing threats without risking the safety of rescue teams and first-responders.
2. They can support law enforcement.
UAS can be used to search for lost children, provide tactical surveillance and suspect tracking, assist in accident investigations, and monitor large crowds.
3. They can contribute to safe infrastructure maintenance and management.
Consider the difficulty of inspecting the underside of a bridge or the top of a skyscraper, not to mention the costs and risks. With UAS, scaffolding, cranes, or harnesses are not required. Just deploy the system to assess the structure’s condition remotely.
4. They can streamline agriculture management.
Using a crop management system to observe, measure, and respond to variability in individual plants, farmers can target areas requiring attention. By pinpointing these areas, farmers can provide care only where needed—improving yield, conserving resources, and avoiding waste.
5. They can give media access to hard-to-reach places.
Aerial photography for a news broadcast or a blockbuster film can be efficiently, economically, and safely captured by a UAS.
Recent Legislation Has Opened Up Growth Opportunities
When Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, it directed the FAA to integrate commercial UAS into the National Airspace System by September 2015. As a result, the UAS industry is investing in new technologies to address emerging opportunities.
Two key technology areas SRI is aiming to improve are image quality and video transmission. UAS camera systems are often compromised by wind and vibration. The result is shaky video that lacks context and is very difficult to send. Our Acadia video processors help by stabilizing, compressing, and sending video in real time.
Integrating UAS into the National Airspace System has created economic opportunity, too. Between 2015 and 2018, the industry is projected to generate $13.6 billion, and will grow organically and sustainably—culminating in more than $82.1 billion in annual revenue by 2025 (source: AUVSI’s 2013 economic impact report).
Wider applications and use of UAS means more demand, and that means jobs. According to the AUVSI report, more than 34,000 manufacturing jobs and 70,000 technical and IT jobs are expected in the first three years of the industry’s launch. These emerging markets are expected to generate nearly 104,000 jobs within a decade.
Although UAS are mostly known for controversial military applications, that perception is likely to change as they are adopted into the commercial market. The technology’s accessibility, cost, and safety provide a unique capability that has not been attainable for many companies. Benefits of this technology grow everyday. SRI continues to extend these possibilities with products to get the most from UAS camera systems.