Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Drones: Doing Good Beyond the Battlefield?

At PAULEY, we’re always keen to utilise new and emerging technologies for more exciting, immersive learning experiences. So what about drones – the technology du jour?

We’re thrilled to be showcasing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at our stand at the upcoming Learning Technologies 2015 exhibition, held in London’s Olympia on 28th and 29th January. But what can such drones offer to those of us in the business of creating technology-driven resources?

When we think about drones, we often dwell on the military applications. But worlds apart from these military drones, commercial and personal versions are also valuable data acquisition tools. The future will see them increasingly used to gather operational intelligence; everything from health and safety site reviews to bird’s-eye-view mapping, and studying supply chains.

Drones in the workplace

We’ve all heard about Amazon’s programme to roll out deliveries by drone. Although the company is still awaiting approval to test the devices in the US, Amazon Prime Air is continuing to test elsewhere, aiming to use drones to deliver packages of up to 2.3kg in weight. Their aim is to enable customers to receive a purchase within 30 minutes of placing an order. Imagine how many companies could also reap the benefits of offering this type of service.

Detailed surveillance and the ability to provide staff with an aerial view are just a couple of further benefits of UAV technology – ideal for staff training in the construction sector, for example. Drones could also help companies adhere to health and safety practices by monitoring contractors and visitors on site in real-time.

People are already talking about combining drones with the new wave of virtual reality technologies, such as the Oculus headset. Companies could create truly immersive and highly memorable training experiences in which footage from a drone could be streamed into the cockpit-like view of a VR headset.

Many mining companies, such as Rio Tinto, are adopting UAV technology in a bid to increase safety in the workplace. Drones are starting to be used for riskier aerial surveying roles that would have formerly been fulfilled by human operators in light aircraft or on the ground.

Drones can also be used to monitor for any changes in an area of land that might be caused by underground mining. This can include spotting large areas of subsistence above or adjacent to mines, which is difficult for people on foot to reach and analyse.

And now that the technology is being taken up more broadly, prices are dropping. Some lucky gadget-lovers will have just received their very own UAV for Christmas, and GoPro are said to be venturing into the market in the near future.drone2

Connected drones

As the Internet of Things continues to expand, drones of all sizes are taking their place among IoT devices feeding back torrents of data for analysis.

A UAE-based company recently announced that it has developed a drone, which is designed to solve inventory management challenges. Their idea involves integrating RFID (radio frequency identification) with UAV technology.

The drone is fitted with an RFID reader, whilst products on the ground are tagged. Signals from these tags are gathered by the airborne drone and transmitted in real-time back to the bespoke inventory management system using a GPRS connection. The result is a tracking system that can accurately determine the location of individual bundles of products within two square metres 98.2% of the times.

Drones to understand nature

UAVs have already been approved in the US to monitor whales and other wildlife, and to study ice floe movements in the Arctic. Used in this way, drones could help put a stop to illegal logging and poaching, track wildfires, and help us understand the extent of habitat destruction.

Drones could also help large-scale farming to be more sustainable and eco-friendly by closely monitoring water use and chemical pest management.

Farmers are already starting to use low-cost UAV platforms. To keep things simple, many of these run on autopilot with GPS to guide them, and are kitted out with point-and-shoot cameras to take shots of the landscape. Software on the ground can then rapidly stitch the photos into a cohesive mosaic map of the farmland. Such images and accompanying software can help farmers spot irrigation problems and fungal infestations, as well as understand plant health and soil variation not visible from the ground. This kind of up-to-date information would allow them to target their resources more efficiently.

The immediate future of drones

Figures released by Britain’s drone regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, in October 2014 reveal that it currently authorises 359 operators using drones weighing under 20kg for work purposes. However, there are thought to be thousands more being flown without licenses throughout the UK. The size of UAVs, the number of licenses, and the level of the technology is likely to boom over the next decade or so as we purchase drones both for home and for work.

We’ll be chatting to visitors at the Learning Technologies 2015 exhibition about all these possibilities for the future of drones in the workplace. If you’re planning to attend on 28th or 29th January, be sure to pay us a visit at Stand 174!