In the news and out in the field, drones are a hot topic right now. Over the past few years, the use of commercial drones across a wide range of industries has exploded (ok, not literally but …). And with more available and technically sophisticated wireless M2M communications technology, applications for commercial drones are growing in both creativity and scale. In particular, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has benefitted from the flexibility that commercial drones provide. For instance, oil and gas companies have begun leveraging drone technology for remote pipeline monitoring and geospatial mapping. Utility companies deploy commercial drones to safely and quickly inspect high voltage power lines and wind turbines, mitigating worker risk. Emergency response organizations need to be able to quickly and flexibly assess critical scenarios, and drone technology has enabled that. And the precision agriculture industry and public safety organizations also deploy drones in a wide variety of applications.
Why the Future of Industrial Drones is Bright
Functionality – One of the main considerations for drone, or UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) use, is the quality of the command and control of these systems. Operators need to know that communications will be uninterrupted and unfailing when deploying drones in remote monitoring and reconnaissance scenarios. Today, the quality of wireless Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications technology has reached the levels necessary to assure operators that command and control capabilities will function in nearly any geographic setting, over long distances and under extreme weather conditions. This reliability also allows for more advanced technology to be deployed on these systems without fear of loss or failure.
Security – But drone hacking is always a concern, no matter which technologies are being used. A recent Wired article demonstrated how hackers were able to gain access and remotely manipulate the settings and controls of a regular, consumer-available Jeep. Obviously, with drones security is even more of a concern. However, most producers of drone technology for commercial use are taking this into account and working with proven wireless communication providers that have developed advanced security techniques to prevent any commandeering or hacking of an unmanned aerial vehicle platform. Governing bodies, such as the Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA), are also taking steps to mandate and implement minimum operating requirements of drone systems when security is critical.
Sensors – Another element that bodes extremely well for commercial drone use is the continued proliferation of advanced sensor technology. Today, sensors are being put in almost everything: from vehicles, to household appliances, to roads and other industrial uses. These sensors can also serve as communication points for drones as they navigate the skies, collecting data that is being transmitted and either storing it for future use or relaying that information to operators in real time. The more these sensor locations are implemented in industrial settings, the greater the capacity for monitoring communications via drone applications.
Onward and upward!
The anticipation of a ubiquitous and mission-critical IIoT is enough for anyone involved in these industries to look forward with great excitement. In the meantime, keep an eye to the sky and share your thoughts on the future of drone uses in commercial settings. What are some cool applications you can think of?