Flying High Above the Rest: Exciting Innovations in the Drone Community
The use of drones is up there with some of the most exciting technological advances of our time. It’s no wonder that drone communities made up of numerous enthusiasts for these small flying robots are springing up all over the place. The popularity of UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, is creating quite a stir in both the amateur community using the devices as a pastime and many pre-existing and startup companies looking for new ways to reach out to the world. Here are some of the most exciting and innovative ways drones have been recently making the news.
Using Drones To Improve the World
There are many new applications for drone usage in the modern world, but among some of the most admirable ideas for UAVs, innovation is the answer to recent concerns the world over. Already, many countries and businesses are enlisting in the assistance of drones for catching problems sooner and providing repairs and solutions more easily.
Countries like Belgium have already started using the technology for monitoring crops and are in the process of developing cameras with higher resolution to make the process more accurate. Eneco, a Dutch energy provider, is using drone technology to find malfunctions in their solar panels. Tihange Nuclear Power Station in Belgium is using the first certified drone pilot in the country to get high-resolution shots that would have been impossible or near that to examine otherwise.
Flanders, the northern region in Belgium, is quite prone to flooding and requires an accurate and detailed mapping of flood-sensitive areas for multiple humanitarian reasons, not the least of which is to map out emergency relief plans. Now, the Flemish Environmental Society (VMM) is in talks with businesses involved in the drone community to find UAVs that can get closer to the damage for more detailed information than the helicopters used previously. Plans have not been solidified yet, but the VMM has already outsourced a government contract with applicable companies.
Many African countries have been recently accepting assistance from businesses either focused on or dabbling in drones to better deliver essential services and supplies. Tanzania has recently joined the trend, working with the American company Zipline to initiate a drone delivery service for emergency medical supplies. The same company had already been working with transfusion clinics in Rwanda as early as October 2016.
Ever thought about drones planting trees? Scientists at Bio-Carbon Engineering have. The U.K.-based company has been working on drones that can find the most advantageous locations for growing new forests, as well as doing the job of planting those trees. What sets plans involving drones apart from prior environmental reforestation efforts are that the drones can plant trees in areas that were difficult to access or even unreachable before. Now jagged cliffs and steep hills are not off-limits in our efforts to give back to the world.
Probably the largest growing industry for drones currently is in the business of making delivery faster and, eventually, more affordable. Many tech companies are participating in the race for advancing the world of package distribution by drones, but even younger engineers without established careers are starting to get in on the action. One aviation student from Vives University in Ostend, Belgium, Yordi Verbeeren, plans to set the world record for distance in delivering a package. The young man will be using his own DT18, developed in France and Belgium, to carry the package approximately 70 kilometers in September 2017.
Another huge milestone for drone communities involved in delivering goods and services is from the Israeli autonomous drone company Flytrex. The Tel Aviv-based company has just started operations in Reykjavik, Iceland, where it is able to deliver packages for the online marketplace Aha to predetermined landing pads where they can be delivered to customers quickly and more easily. The company is currently trying to work with the government there for approval to eventually deliver packages straight to the customers’ houses.
China’s largest online marketplace, JD, is currently perfecting its own delivery drones that are now capable of carrying packages weighing up to one ton. The company has recently set up shop in the Shaanxi province for their drone delivery base, a perfect central location for transport across China. This literally huge achievement has already been awarded about five kilometers of airspace for testing out the new technology, which has got to be making companies like Amazon sweat a little bit.
Speaking of the tech giant, Amazon is currently working on patents for stations to keep drones charged, well-maintained and available for speedy delivery. The company has already made its first delivery by drone in December 2016 in the U.K. Amazon faces several challenges to their big plans for drone usage in the U.S. currently, but that doesn’t seem to be holding back their innovations too much. Apparently, they are playing around with the idea of drone stations on methods of transport, such as boats, trains, and vans. Additionally, the company has filed a patent on massive drone “hives” for big city centers, with a similar grand scheme in mind.
The Latest News
Many technological advances in the drone community are still in the beginning stages but are no less exciting. Companies like Airobot are focused not on the designs of the drones themselves, but on making the ones already in production more accurate. Other engineers not tied to any company, such as the researchers and graduate students at many of the top universities, are looking for new ways to approach the design and function of the drones being produced currently.
MIT has been involved in making some great headway in drone technology recently. Engineers in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab were involved in creating UAVs capable of both drive and flight earlier this summer. The researchers claim they were motivated by the idea that birds and bugs can easily move around both in the air and on the ground. No grand visions of James Bond-style upgrades have been mentioned yet.
Another impressive contribution to drone research by the prestigious tech university comes in a very small form. Researchers at MIT are designing a computer chip “brain” for drones that will be smaller than any that have been developed yet. The smaller chip should not only allow for the construction of even tinier UAVs but also use less energy, helping with a common problem for distance-traveling drones.
Not to be outdone, a biomechanical ecologist at Harvard, Stacey Combs, recently teamed up with former colleagues to research the movement of bumblebees to further drone technology. The team discovered flexible joints in the wings of the bees that had not been studied prior, which allow the insects to run into objects without crumpling their wings. The application of these studies with drone wings sheds light on a common issue with drones and a possible solution for making the technology more durable.
Engineers at Facebook Inc. have been working for a while now on solar-powered drones that would provide internet access to more areas around the world and make connectivity better. The full plans require that the UAVs can stay in flight for months at a time. The company is currently claiming two successful test runs thus far, one that stayed in flight for an hour and 36 minutes in 2016, and the more recent test this year that stayed in flight for 10 minutes longer.
How To Get Involved in Drone Communities
With so much exciting news going on in the world of drones, you may be wondering how you can become a part of the action. Not everyone is going to have the expertise required to fit into one of the innovative companies spearheading new technology and uses for drones, but never fear. There are multiple drone communities you can join to get all the latest information and advice, and many of them are completely free.
The Drone Pilots Network connects some of the most eclectic groups of die-hard drone fans through an informative and forum-style layout. This community includes several subgroups, such as PhantomPilots, DroneRacingPilots, and GoProPilots. Wherever you fit in the drone community, they’ve got a place for you, and plenty of experts and newbies alike contribute to “the world’s largest community of Drone Enthusiasts.” Another place to check out is www.knowbeforeyoufly.org, which offers a whole host of the important information you need if you’re new to the world of drones, or even if you just need a refresher course. Some information on their website is exclusive to the U.S., but they present many resources with vital information regardless of your citizenship.
A website set up by the non-profit organization EUKA, www.dronecommunity.biz, promises a plethora of information on all the latest updates and innovations in drone research and technology. Not much of a forum site, the company is focused on bringing in enthusiasm for the droning industry in efforts to further advances in Europe. For those outsides of Europe, the website offers a subscription to their informative newsletter and is looking for more drone enthusiasts interested in joining their blogging or vlogging teams.
New features for drones are being developed every day. Hobbyists and professionals alike can find a growing number of communities to explore all the new technologies that constantly arise in this innovative field.