Drone technology has become so much more than a consumer toy for spying on neighbors or taking bizarre selfies. We’ve seen how industry has begun to realize practical uses for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), ranging from package delivery via Amazon Prime Air and DHL’s Parcelcopter to delivery of blood samples and pharmaceuticals through specialized medication-delivery drones.
And now more organizations are jumping on the bandwagon, realizing the technology’s versatility. The global market for business services using drones is valued at more than $127 billion, says a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. One of the fastest growing user groups is the public sector. While drone technology originated in the military, many more federal agencies are starting to invest in UAV technologies to achieve their mission in a multitude of ways.
Here are three ways drones are finding practical uses within the federal government:
Reconnaissance and Monitoring
Military reconnaissance and defense drones predate commercial drone use by years. Most of us are familiar with the Department of Defense’s Predator drones, brought to light during the Afghan campaign airstrikes. However, the military has used drones for over a decade to scout out enemy territory, which is made possible by the technology’s ability to go undetected without putting soldiers at risk.
Its success in the military has spread to other enforcement agencies. U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses drones to monitor the Mexican-American Border; and the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation use the technology for law enforcement and protection. Drone manufacturers such as Homeland Surveillance & Electronics LLC sells UAV products to police departments for missing person investigations. In one scenario, a drone found a missing elderly man in 20 minutes after authorities conducted a three-day search.
Prevention & Analytics
Surveillance for natural disasters is an area that will be greatly impacted by UAVs. The White House reported that the Department of Interior will have drones fully implemented by 2018, ultimately cutting down the time from when natural hazards like forest fires are detected and how quickly they’re addressed.
Drones, armed with high-powered optics and big data and analytics software, have also gained attention in the agriculture sector. Juniper Research estimated that roughly half of commercial drone sales in 2016 will be bought by farms. Even the USDA has caught on, enabling data collection to help interpret crop data.
Drone technology has only begun to scratch the surface in its useful and streamlined applications, especially for government agencies. The future of drone use throughout the United States is imminent for industry and government alike. It’s time to begin flying.
The ABCs of Drones
The common drone comes all different shapes and sizes. Typically, smaller drones have shorter range, fly at lower altitudes, and do not require a ton of maintenance. Larger drones usually serve more of a utility purpose such as carrying small cargos and are sometimes used for imagery, flying at higher altitudes with a longer range to cover more topography.
Whether an organization uses a rotary UAV or a jet propelled UAV module is dependent on its purpose. For instance, if the function entails a need to hover in a certain position or navigate around structures, such as for construction purposes, the rotary system makes more sense. Rotary, helicopter-inspired drones, also happen to be the most frequently produced type on the market today.
In the past, drones have heavily relied on conventional power through battery docking station and fuel stops. However, more recently, companies such as Google, with their solar-powered internet drones, have developed a means to tapping into renewable energy in hopes of one day provide universal internet access.
Kevin Shaker is a Market Intelligence Analyst with immixGroup (an Arrow company), which helps technology companies do business with the government. He specializes in civilian agencies and infrastructure technology. He can be reached at Kevin_Shaker@immixgroup.com or connect with him on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/kevinshaker.