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The other drones; looking at the other drone use possibilities


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Leonardo Times MARCH 2014


ost people will think of the MQ-9

Reaper, when mentioning drones. This is the drone that is used by the Unit-ed States Air Force and the CIA in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia to kill terrorists. Most of the time, these drones are mentioned in the news for their collateral damage. In 2013 alone, the United States estimated that 271 people died from drone strikes around the world [1]. The government claims that approximately one in every nine to 10 deaths is a civilian. But drones are not only used to kill. In fact, most drones are used for peaceful purposes around the world.


Taking the example of the MQ-9, this drone is not always used to carry weap-ons. The drone has been adapted for com-pletely diff erent missions. It is used by Homeland security for border patrol be-tween the US and Mexico. It is also used by the Coast Guards to monitor maritime borders and ports. NASA also uses the MQ-9 for science missions along with the RQ-4 (Global Hawk). Military drones are just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of other drones already exist.


Drones are used for almost any profes-sional use. In France, the national train company (SNCF) recently announced that they would be using drones to monitor their rail network. Currently, the company

is using helicopters to monitor copper thieves on the rails all over the country. The use of drones will greatly reduce the costs of such monitoring.

Drones will also be used for repairs. For rail dedicated bridges, monitoring repairs require the closure of the track and the use of professional climbers to inspect all sides of aging bridges. However, drones can do the same tasks without having to close the bridges and at lower costs. Drones can just hover over bridge to be inspected and using cameras, men can in-spect the bridge from a distance. This is a tremendous cost benefi t.

Drones are also used in the movie indus-try. To fi lm large aerial shots, helicopters are the only tool available to directors. However, they can only be used outdoors and with authorisation from the authori-ties. This heavily restricts their use and the possibility to realise such shots. Nowa-days drones can be used for these shots. Drones can be used both in outdoors and indoors. The cameras can therefore be placed in tight locations tremendously enlarging the shot possibilities for direc-tors. Furthermore, drones are helping to modify Hollywood. Any small bud-get movie, Indie movie or even YouTube movie can now use drones as a tool and does not have to spend vast amounts of money for shots that could only be fi lmed by helicopters.


So far, most of the drone applications mentioned are unmanned applications. Drones can also be used autonomously. This would mean that they are pro-grammed to do a task with no human in the loop. This is currently experimented by farmers. In large farms, the farmer can have the need to use small agricultural aircraft. From these aircraft’s, the farmers can survey their crops or their livestock. They can also spray pesticides over their crops. In the future, autonomous drones could survey the farms automatically. They could pinpoint locations in the farm where there is a need for more attentions from the farmers. This would ease the workload of farmers and increase their ef-fi ciency while remaining cost eff ective. These examples are only a few examples from thousands of other applications that are and will be possible thanks to drone technology. What drones are used for only depends on us.

TEXT Raphael Klein, MSc Student Aerospace Engineering, Editor Leonardo Times

Looking at the other drone use possibilities




[1] Fewer death from drone strikes in 2013 after Obama policy change, http:// www.theguardian.com/world/2013/ dec/31/deaths-drone-strikes-obama-policy-change, The Guardian, January 2014 HT TP :// HEX C AM .W ORDPRESS .C OM Column 0314.indd 50 3/23/14 19:57


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