Drones: Useful Tools, not Killing Machines

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Unmanned vehicles that function without the need for a person to be on board are one of the biggest technological advances of recent times. While we’re some way off seeing driverless cars on the streets, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), and several types of unmanned spacecraft are in use all over the world.

While there are many different types of unmanned vehicles, probably the most publicized is the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), otherwise known as a drone. Drones have been used extensively by the military and law enforcement, and although their use in the civilian world has prompted some controversy, they do have an important role to play in many sectors. The use of drones can result in cost-savings, and in lessening the danger to personnel in emergency situations.

Technical development

Drones can be controlled by a pilot on the ground, follow a pre-planned mission, or operate autonomously, sensing the environment and navigating on their own. Development of drone varieties and capabilities, including surveillance, offers corporations and local and national authorities technical abilities not previously available.

Practical uses

Drones are being used in search and rescue operations, search and apprehend operations, and evidence gathering. They allow law enforcement authorities to keep watch over large or inaccessible areas. For example, drones can be used in the surveillance of illegal fishing, pirates or drug cultivation. Commercially, they can be used for remote inspections of pipelines or other infrastructure to facilitate repairs and maintenance. They have proven to also help in fire fighting and other emergency response.

Wildfire case study

San Diego State University’s Visualization Centre has demonstrated the drone’s ability to provide a safe and inexpensive method for obtaining real-time information about wildfires. Benefits of using a drone in these situations include the ability to take off in winds and from locations that helicopters cannot manage. Compact drones, like those produced by RP Flight Systems and used by San Diego State University Viz. Lab., fly much lower than military drones, so captured images are higher resolution and available almost in real-time. In comparison, images produced by US federally owned UAVs must be processed before release, so that those of rapidly changing scenarios like wild fires can be hours old, and virtually useless. Other uses include pre-emptive surveillance of current fuel loads, and the state of fire roads and hot-spot mitigation after fires.

Issues with compact drones

Compact drones provide an effective surveillance platform with the advantage of substantially lower costs compared with manned aircraft providing similar capabilities. However, there are some disadvantages. The use of drones, which are capable of taking still photographs and video, has been controversial for privacy reasons.

While they remove actual pilots from harms way, depending on the range of the particular drone, the personnel operating these aircraft might still be reasonably close to danger, such as a fire-front.

Unsecured communication is another drawback, although this is an issue that can be solved with the GPAC System™. The GPAC System™ facilitates the secure acquisition of information and the secure redistribution of data from drones in real-time.

For more information on the GPAC System™, and how it can help make drone operations seamless, contact us.

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