When it comes to drone capability, strength and speed, professional drones are top of the line. Manufacturers design these machines to appeal to industries where they would not only be convenient but necessary. From the film industry to survey farmers, professionals know how to put these drones to work. As technology advances, drones become more and more capable.
Professional drones are generally higher quality than the toy drones enthusiasts use for recreation. Manufacturers build these hardier and with extra features that are suited for agriculture, film, utility companies and more. As drones gain in popularity, the businesses that have something to gain from them also grow in number.
There is one business, however, where you’ll see drones soaring high! Here is what you need to know about drones and the agriculture business.
When it comes to agriculture, drones have found a natural place in the business. Farmers cannot be everywhere at once. However, with a drone, they are able to survey their land with real-time information. Farming involves keeping track of many different components. From crop health, water use and soil analysis, farmers have a lot to keep track of. In the past, before drones were a major asset to farming, people invested in plane surveillance. Planes can’t be used as often and at the expense of manned aircraft, farmers tend to use data surveillance by plane sparingly. Drones, on the other hand, can survey the land on a daily or weekly basis.
When used, these drones can complete a variety of jobs on farms and ranches. Here are just some of the tasks that they are capable of:
When you have the time to make a plan, then you have a chance to save your crops and maximise your productivity. Drones make it possible for you to gather extra information in a fast and convenient way. Your eyes aren’t going to be able to tell you when a plant is in distress or when there’s unseen soil damage. Drones are fast, convenient and highly effective.
Take for example how the agricultural industry uses thermal imagining to determine whether a farm is watered adequately. Keep in mind that watered areas tend to be cooler than the areas that are not. A great drone to use for this purpose is the DJI Inspire 1. Not only is it fitted with thermal imagining but it also has 3D mapping and crop monitoring capabilities.
Fixed Wing Drones
Fixed wing drones are preferred by the agricultural industry. This is because their batteries tend to last longer and they can survey larger expanses of land. This is better in terms of surveillance and data collection over a large area. Fixed wing drones fly higher and spend more time in the air than a multi-rotor drone. Since these are also larger and can carry more, they are often equipped with more sensors. This allows ranchers and farmers to get more work done. When it comes to this type of drone, they tend to look more like airplanes with a large wingspan.
Here are two common fixed-wing commercial drones for agriculture:
PrecisionHawk Lancaster 5
With high stability, the Lancaster 5 is a sturdy fixed-wing drone. On board, it has sensors that can measure temperature, air pressure, and humidity. It can also respond to the changing weather conditions. With an in-flight monitoring system, you can monitor its battery life, altitude, and position from home. It is also capable of 2D and 3D mapping.
The Sensefly eBee SQ is practical for data collection. In one flight, you can capture the soil temperature, H20 levels and plant counts. Additionally, it is capable of 3D mapping.
Multi-Rotor drones are also a good choice for farmers, especially when you want a drone with more control. These drones have more than two rotors for flying. This can be especially helpful for beginners. Now, when you want to fly your drone low to the ground or need it to fit into smaller places, the multi-rotor is more advantageous. For many farmers, the type of drone that you choose depends on the size of your farm and your level of skill with a drone.
Here are two common multi-rotor drones:
DJI Phantom 4 PRO
This is an easy-to-use beginner agricultural drone. With the Sentera’s NSVI upgrade, it is capable of capturing high-resolution color. This is a great way for a farmer to determine the health of their land. Predominately used for scouting, it is a hardy agricultural drone.
This drone contains high-resolution mapping software that farmers can utilize on their properties. With two cameras, the aerial mapping is not only possible but is also easy to carry out. This is a great drone for those who need to scout.
Many farmers and ranchers have an extensive amount of property in which large herds of animals can roam. In this case, it may be difficult for farmers or their work animals to monitor the herd at all times. Drones are lightweight, fast, and can follow herds wherever they roam. Not only do they have a live tracking system, but also professional, commercial drones for agriculture can feed live video to your laptop or smartphone.
In addition, a drone equipped with infrared or night vision will be able to see your animals even when you can’t. Cows, for instance, have a tendency to hide in forested areas, under the canopies of trees. With the right infrared technology, you’ll be able to see them through the trees when you might not have been able to find them yourself. It won’t be long before drones are a staple of animal agriculture. These devices can be used to raising and managing livestock. In fact, if you need a solid herding tool, drones can perform that too.
While they continue to develop and better the technology, there is a future for drones in agriculture, especially when it comes to working with the animals themselves.
What Makes Drones Better?
New technology can be daunting. Despite having been on the market since the 90s, drones have only started gaining real popularity in the last several years. Don’t be like some people in the industry, however, and be too nervous to take that leap! It’s worth it in the long run and we can tell you why.
First, consider the price. To use other aerial methods can cost a lot of money. From manned aircraft to satellites, you are paying too much for aerial pictures. Drones cost less money; their imaging is by far cheaper.
Second, they have offer more precision when it comes to picture taking. Why spend extra money on images that won’t turn out as well
Here are a few other benefits of drones:
From simple images, 3D mapping, to infrared technology, the drone has few tasks unfit for it.
by droneshop | Mar 12, 2018 |
Drones are today providing many safety and economic benefits to a wide range of industries. Ranging from aerial inspections and photography to emergency deliveries and monitoring rescue missions, the list of services the drones are offering is swiftly growing.
Although the earlier drones were mainly for photography and enthusiasts, today’ drones have many capabilities and functionalities that companies can use to improve safety and efficiency in both normal and difficult environments.
Typical applications include:
Supervision and inspection services of construction sites,
Inspecting risky and difficult to access facilities and remote field infrastructures such as pipelines in oil and gas industry.
Delivering medicine to remote locations
Inspecting buildings for damage and deterioration
Monitoring rescue operation or assessing hazardous sites before sending emergency personnel, etc.
How do drones improve safety and efficiency
The use of drone inspection is not restricted to the oil and gas, and similar industries. They are suitable for many other applications in almost all industries. This includes surveying, construction project management, farming, rescue missions, firefighting and more. They allow people to perform aerial inspections and obtain images of roof or structure damage, crop damage, terrain features and other properties that someone cannot see easily from the ground. Inspecting a roof in New Zealand requires edge fall protection, harnesses and a full hazard management plan. Using a drone reduces the need for these costly and time consuming additional costs.
Different industries have their unique environments and requirements, but in general, here are some of the ways drones improve safety and efficiency.
Reduced costs and time
Due to their ability to fly, the drones reduce the costs and equipment needs as well as the risk associated with building and structure inspections. Carrying out such services using the traditional manual methods is usually expensive and risky as it exposes the workers to a wide range of safety and health risks. On the other hand, drones are quicker and require fewer people to carry out an inspection or monitoring service, hence more savings.
Today, there are many different sensors for drones. This enables them to check physical properties such as cracks, corrosion as well as chemical conditions such as gas or liquid leaks. Equipping the drones with, say, a thermal camera, a video and photo camera, and gas detection sensors enables it to perform multiple tests, hence reducing the time and cost of carrying them out individually.
Perform regular inspections to improve operational efficiency
Since drones provide a low-cost solution, companies can perform regular inspections. This has the potential to reduce shutdowns and improve operations efficiency. The regular inspections increase the rate of identifying issues before they develop into major problems that would cause shutdowns or lost production. Drones can, therefore, provide an easier and quicker means of identifying faults and then allowing the company to fix them at the most convenient time as opposed to waiting for faults to develop fully and cause expensive shutdowns.
In addition to reducing risks, the drones are quicker, less costly and have the ability to capture more details; especially in confined spaces where humans cannot access, are exposed to more risks.
No need to interrupt operations
Majority of inspections do not require shutting down the plant or machines. This allows the company to continue with its production without any interruptions. A traditional inspection interferes with the normal running of the systems and will most often require a partial or complete shutdown. This can be expensive in addition to lost time and production. With a drone flying at a safe distance, the company will continue its operations and hence achieve higher efficiencies.
Assess structure or environment before sending a human being
Sending a drone to first assess damage is the safest approach to handle potentially risky structures. This is especially necessary in cases of fire, toxic gas leaks, spills, collapsing or damaged roofs, or metallic structures suffering from corrosion and other causes.
A drone eliminates the need to send a human to go to a place that may still pose risks such as further collapse or spread of fire. Navigating the drone from a safe ground position allows the operator to have a view of what is happening in real-time and determine the best and safest way to address the problem. The drone views enable firefighters to prepare well and extinguish it more efficiently and safely while minimizing further spreading, and avoiding loss of life, injuries and damage to property.
Even during normal or regular inspections of structures, a drone is useful in assessing the status of the structure. This allows the maintenance team to determine what they need in order to fix the problems while ensuring the workers have adequate gear that guarantees their safety.
Equipping a drone with appropriate gas or liquid sensors allows them to evaluate areas of toxicity before sending human workers. This prevents exposure to harmful fumes that can lead to health complications or even death that will cost the company more money in compensation.
Reduce need to send workers to risky areas
The drone eliminates the need to send workers to the hard-to-reach areas, climb structures, walk on top of faulty roofs and other activities that expose them to other hazards.
The drones can operate in hazardous environments including those that are cold, hot, toxic, confined or over fumes, smoke, dust and other harsh conditions. By eliminating the traditional access methods, the company saves money it could have spent hiring or purchasing expensive equipment such as rope access and scaffolding. Other than acquisition costs, using the equipment has several risks and the workers must be insured adequately, hence increasing the expenses further.
Overall, drones provide a safe, efficient and less costly alternative to organizations, that have to help them increase reliability and productivity.
Aerial images minimise walking in dangerous areas
By taking aerial images of a construction or disaster site, the managers can monitor the activities from safe distances. This reduces the possibilities of accidents arising from falling objects such as debris, tripping, falls and more. The managers can even monitor spillages and leaks without putting their lives at risk.
The drone allows the supervisors to inspect the site remotely and in real time hence eliminating the need to go into the dangerous areas. They also eliminate the need to climb other structures such as cell towers, wind turbines, and electrical transmission poles for inspections. This eventually minimizes potential risks from physical objects, falls, hazardous gases and chemicals as well as other hazards such as extreme temperatures or contamination.
Tracking progress at reduced risk and cost
Inspecting worksites or structures enables managers or supervisors to see what is happening without putting their lives at risk. This allows them to track progress and identify any issues or potential problems from a safe distance.
A drone can help to easily identify potential as well as existing problems hence allowing the company to fix them before they cause bigger issues.
Increasing efficiency and safety through virtual reality
Adding other technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence increases the capabilities of the drones that enable both professional and non-technical people to easily interpret results or learn about the structures remotely. For example, a person can have a virtual tour of a structure or construction site before a project has started.
Such a tour enables the workers to have an idea of the facility even before physically setting their foot there. It not only prepares them for what they will meet, but also provides an opportunity to discuss with others and give feedback on issues such as placement of particular equipment, controls, inlets, outlets, etc.
In addition, the early input allows the decision makers or maintenance managers to make necessary changes that increase efficiency while creating a safer and better workplace.
Providing the essential information to all stakeholders allows collaborations and contribution by everyone and has a potential to improve teamwork and efficiency. In addition, it saves on time since the workers will be familiar with the site.
GoPro’s announcement this week that it would exit the drone business was greeted by many observers as a foregone conclusion. Karma, the company’s first foray into drones had sold poorly after an embarrassing recall in 2016. Under pressure to cut costs amid slowing sales in its core action-camera business, GoPro’s hand was forced. Viewed in that light, Karma was just one more tech company side hustle that didn’t pay off.
But to shrug off GoPro’s drone is to ignore a larger question: why have American efforts to build a popular consumer drone failed? After all, the GoPro announcement follows the collapse of a similar effort from 3D Robotics, which similarly abandoned the consumer market in 2016 after the failure of its inaugural drone product, called Solo. While it is still relatively early in the history of consumer drones, the failures have left Chinese drone manufacturer DJI in a dominant position.
As it turns out, both GoPro and 3DR weren’t built to compete, observers say: they relied on contract manufacturers at a time when DJI, the dominant player, was designing and manufacturing every product itself. Making things worse, the American companies announced their products far in advance, giving DJI ample opportunity to catch up to any advertised features. When the American drones did arrive, they did so broken (in the case of Solo), or late and broken (in the case of Karma).
“DON’T TELEGRAPH YOUR MOVES TO THE INDUSTRY — ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE NOT A BIG PLAYER.”
“The business lesson here is, don’t telegraph your moves to the industry — especially if you’re not a big player,” says Gerald Van Hoy, an independent consultant and analyst who covers the drone industry. “DJI is positioned well. They take advantage of everything that’s given to them, and they run with it — that’s why it’s hard to compete with them toe to toe. The only way you beat those guys is you come in quiet.”
Instead, American companies have sought to make a splash. For 3DR, that meant hiring Colin Guinn, the former head of DJI America, who helped lead design and marketing efforts for DJI’s popular Phantom drone. Guinn, who had become prominent in the drone community by posting videos about the Phantom to YouTube, had the credibility to promote Solo as the next evolution in consumer drones.
Solo was the first drone with integrated controls for GoPro cameras, the first with programmable flight paths, and the first to offer high-end customer service that included a no-questions-asked, 30-day money-back guarantee. When I saw it in 2015, I said it may have been the smartest drone ever.
But while Solo arrived on time, the separately sold gimbal — which stabilizes the camera, and is necessary for high-quality photo and video — was late. The combined package was expensive at $1,700. And early buyers found a wide range of bugs. 3DR sold only about half the units it projected, according to Forbes. Along the way, DJI — which owns its own factories — managed to slash prices for a combined drone and gimbal to about $1,000. Having spent most of the $200 million it raised, 3DR abandoned the hardware business.
“WE HAD A DRAMATICALLY BAD LAUNCH.”
GoPro began teasing the existence of Karma in May 2015, but it didn’t arrive until the end of 2016. Among its selling points was the fact that you could use its gimbal as a handheld stabilizer for the Hero line of action cameras, expanding its utility. Unfortunately, the $799 Karma shipped with a defect that could cause it to randomly lose power while it was in the sky. GoPro recalled all 2,500 units it had sold. The company lost $373 million for the year, largely because of the high cost of developing the drone.
In an interview this week, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman disputed the idea that Karma had been a failure. “Karma has been a commercial success for GoPro,” he said. “We had a dramatically bad launch. And the fact that in February of 2017 we were able to relaunch it, and have it become the second-best selling drone in the thousand-dollar-and-up category, is testament to the terrific concept of the versatile drone.”
But the market for consumer drones turned out to be smaller than GoPro expected, Woodman said. And ultimately, it didn’t have pockets deep enough to compete with DJI.
“We looked at how much we were spending on our drone program, relative to the number of units we were selling, and most importantly relative to the profit that we were making on the whole program,” he said. “It just became clear that the drone category is going to continue to be a thin-margin category. There’s incredibly stiff competition.”
After Solo collapsed, 3DR’s Guinn told Forbes that DJI’s vertical integration — the fact that it both designed and manufactured its own hardware — had represented an insurmountable obstacle. “What we realized is that it’s just going to be inherently much more difficult for a Silicon Valley-based, software-focused company to compete against vertically integrated powerhouse manufacturing company in China,” he told Forbes.
DJI’S DESIGN-AND-BUILD MODEL HAS CREATED A TOUGH OBSTACLE
This week, Woodman echoed that sentiment. “In the drone space specifically to be competitive, and make money doing it, I think a company would need to be vertically integrated,” he said. “Because that’s what DJI is. That’s what you’re up against. And they’re going to be able to make a profit at lower retail price points than anybody who isn’t vertically integrated.”
Van Hoy says the future of drones lies in finding uses that go beyond elaborate selfie-taking: drones that can sniff gas leaks, for example, or analyze your home to see where heat is leaking out of it. You might buy your next drone not at Best Buy, he says, but Home Depot.
“There has to be some application that’s going to bring more consumers to the market on drones,” Van Hoy says. “Otherwise you’re going to get the Christmas crowd. They’re going to play with it for 10 minutes, and then it’s going to the attic.”
By Casey Newton@CaseyNewton Jan 11, 2018
Sean O’Kane contributed to this report.
I began my career as a builder and progressed through to the owner of Mojo NZ Ltd. The first drone I owned is to this day lodged in a tree on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We now provide drones to all industries from toys to racing drones to professional camera drones. This blog is a look at ourselves and the industry in general.