Alphabet’s drone delivery unit, Wings, started the process of delivering medical supplies using drones in Europe recently. The company is partnering with Apian, which is a drone startup, to begin delivering medical products to hospitals and patients in Ireland. Eventually, the two organisations hope to start this service in the UK as well.
Now, Alphabet is no stranger to using drones to get products to customers. In 2019, the company was FAA-approved to operate in the US. And, it achieved 100,000 deliveries by 2021. But, is taking objects from one point to another the only way drones can be useful?
As it turns out, they are being used in several industries for various purposes. However, one of the ways this technology is making life safer and easier for a number of businesses is by 3D mapping. Let’s take a look at how certain sectors have improved performance and employee safety with drones.
Mapping and Surveying
Traditionally, mapping and surveying were done manually, with people going over terrain and measuring it painstakingly. Now, with 3D mapping drones, it can be done quicker and cover a larger area than before.
The specialised sensors and multispectral cameras that drones are equipped with can collect data about the structures, landscape, elevation, and more. The information is then used to create 2D and 3D geospatial maps and digital elevation models. These can then also be used in other industries, such as construction, agriculture, environmental management, and mining.
In the field (pun intended!) of agriculture, drones have emerged as invaluable tools. These machines deliver high-resolution digital images that help monitor crop growth and health.
They assist in land imaging, which enables agriculturalists to identify any issues arising on their farms. That includes shifts in soil composition, pinpointing irrigation anomalies, detecting pest infestations, and preemptively diagnosing plant ailments before escalation.
However, drone capabilities extend beyond imaging and observation. These captured images can also be converted into intricate 3D maps, offering insights into crop growth rates across seasons and years. Plus, these maps allow farmers to determine factors such as available arable land, soil moisture, nutrient levels, and more. This helps them make faster, well-informed decisions.
Construction is another area where large areas of land have to be mapped. In fact, they offer many advantages for building sites. But, we’re only discussing 3D mapping here, so how does that help builders?
For one, the technology is helping civil engineers plan and design better, with the help of 3D models of the site and its topography.
Drones are also being used to inspect the completed construction for defects and damage, so human workers are not risking their lives and limbs.
One of the industries that has benefited the most from 3D mapping drones is mining. In the past, it used to be a dangerous enterprise, and it still can be. However, with autonomous drones, some of the risk has been alleviated.
For example, companies like Exyn Technologies have made mining operations safer and more efficient. Autonomous drones are being used to surveil areas that might be too dangerous or inaccessible to people—caves and mine shafts, for example.
Stopes—underground caverns that are created when an area is blasted—can be unstable. Using 3D mapping drones, you can analyse the structure to see whether some parts of it might need reinforcement without risking any lives.
Drones can be especially useful in GPS-denied areas, where other mapping technologies might not work. Using simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM), inertial IMU localisation, and visual localisation, drones can map areas that have no GPS or light.
Of course, these are not the only industries that use drones and 3D mapping isn’t all these drones do. However, this particular use of these aerial machines is making these industries safer and more efficient.
Parul Mathur has been writing since 2009. That’s when she discovered her love for SEO and how it works. She developed an interest in learning HTML and CSS a couple of years later, and React in 2020. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading, walking her dog, messing up her garden, or doodling.