Useful Uses of Light Duty Drones

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DRONEBY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD – Small, light duty remotely controlled (RC) drones that fly at a height between 20 and 200 ft. can perform a large number of useful tasks quickly and relatively cheaply. Here’s a partial list of the things that can be done by a $5,000 multi-rotor drone that can lift 2 to 4 kg (4 to 10 lb):

Infrastructure Services (1)

  • Assess road and bridge surface condition with 3D mapping that is far easier than deploying expensive custom profilometers on specialized vehicles.
  • Inventory and condition of road and highway signs, signals, lane markings and barriers.
  • Remote assessment of tree growth, land slide slopes and condition, rock outcrops along highways.
  • Detailed external inspection of newly delivered projects such as roads, bridges, buildings, etc.
  • External inspection of pipelines.
  • Inspection of utility lines.
  • Harbor patrol and inspections for leaks, etc.
  • Area monitoring of air quality: traffic, chemical, other leaks.
  • Traffic management at the site of an incident with no or poor CCTV coverage.
  • Rapid regional land surveys and photogrammetry (i.e., centimeter accuracy GoogleEarth).

Commercial Services

  • Extra live capture of events such as surfing, racing, skiing and other sports where camera placement is challenging. (Example of 2013 RallyX near Honolulu.)
  • Real estate, architectural, promotional and educational videos.
  • Spraying of crops and fertilizers — used in Japan for over 20 years; see picture above.
  • Wildlife monitoring and rounding of livestock.
  • Remote sensing for archaeology, minerals, other resources.

Security and Rescue Services

  • Police, security and similar quick-deployment surveillance that deploys from the trunk of a police vehicle, and supplements helicopter surveillance.
  • Remote sensing and discovery of lost hikers, avalanche victims, etc.
  • Quick emergency supply drop before “big help” can be mobilized, if necessary.

Note (1): See additional discussion: Researchers Have High Hopes for Drone Use in Transportation





  1. What else is new? The question is what is UH doing about this, besides pontificating?

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