The world is transforming right before our eyes. We’ve heard about drones for a long time now, especially with big companies like Amazon using them for more efficient package delivery, a major trend in modern e-commerce. Instead of your local delivery man, a drone may drop a package right on your doorstep. The true power of drones goes well beyond that, though. They provide businesses with data that’s difficult to collect otherwise. In addition to taking aerial photos and videos, drones can collect information about everything from the health of crops to thermal leaks in buildings.
Drones are helping businesses and professionals perform better, but improved technology always comes with a new set of problems. Let’s discuss the triumphs and challenges that drones introduce in regards to big data analytics:
How Are Drones Used for Data Collection?
Drones can capture, store, and transmit data, giving businesses the opportunity to integrate more data into their current processes. The data that drones capture is more advanced than in the past. Drones used to collect just photos and videos for visualization. For example, real estate companies sometimes use drones to promote the properties they’re selling and appeal to a wider base of buyers. Drones give interesting views of the buildings, which can make properties stand out as a top choice.
Today, drones can gather data about emissions, geodetic information for land surveyance, and radio signals. They have capabilities that help all sorts of industries.
Collecting Data for Geographic Information Systems
Geographic information systems (GIS) are used to map, visualize, and analyze locations. Drones often collect data to be used by GIS technology. For example, an orthomosaic aerial photo from a drone will be corrected so that it doesn’t have any distortion. It can then be a reliable resource for creating a to-scale map. A mapping tool can create a 3D model of a map, which helps data scientists create predictive models, analyze spatial characteristics, and improve collaboration between in-office personnel and those working in the field.
How Farmers Use Drones for Agriculture
The agriculture industry has greatly benefited from the introduction of drones. Farmers have the challenge of producing enough food to meet demand, but predicting crop yields can be difficult. Drones are versatile and are able to reach places that are hard to access by humans. Farmers can use drones to survey their fields and determine which parts of their land are struggling due to drought or other types of intense weather. Drones can also monitor for moisture content. The farmer can then determine when one of their crops is struggling and act to fix the problem. Otherwise, by the time they realize there’s a problem, it could be too late to save the crop.
Using Drones for Thermal Imaging
Thermal imaging, or thermography, is when a video camera detects radiation. Construction and maintenance professionals rely on this type of data to determine if there are leaks in thermal insulation. Drone data helps them create more efficient buildings and troubleshoot problems more accurately. It’s possible that drones will become the standard when doing building inspections. While they won’t replace the need for manual inspections, they can guide inspectors about where they have to take a closer look.
Data Challenges That Drones Pose for Businesses
With the ability to collect and utilize more data comes the need for more advanced data guidelines. Drones come with unique challenges that businesses have to consider, ranging from flight requirements and data privacy to archiving source material.
Adhering to Flight Requirements
A drone is technically an aircraft and has to operate under specific FAA regulations. Where and how the drone will be operating have to be considered. For example, the drone has to stay in unaided sight of the operator; you must use anti-collision lighting when flying during twilight; and you can’t fly a drone over a person who is not a participant in the project.
Every time you introduce new data to your business, you also introduce new privacy risks. Aerial data has to be governed because it comes with privacy concerns. Security has to be reliable across all channels: the drone service provider, the cloud that will transmit the data, and your business.
Archiving Collected Data
Drones often take photos for data collection, and it’s common for a composite photo to be created from several photos. If at some point the source data (the individual photos) need to be referenced, they have to be archived somewhere. This means that businesses have to have processes and rules for data retention, such as where it’s stored, who has access, and how long it’s kept for.
Will Drones Steal Jobs From Humans?
People often think that advanced technology — especially tech that automates tasks — means there will be fewer jobs. Tech, even artificial intelligence, isn’t sentient yet; it can’t think like a human. Plus, a lot of technology fails, so jobs aren’t becoming antiquated as quickly as some reports would have you think. Furthermore, while certain jobs may become unnecessary, other doors will open up. There will be a greater demand for engineers and data scientists, which will create more job openings.
Automation is being seen everywhere, and some changes feel more futuristic than others. Having a drone drop off a package you ordered from Amazon is one thing. Self-driving cars feel even more far-fetched, yet they’re already on the road. The changes that are most impactful, though, aren’t typically known by the public. The data that drones collect improve processes for businesses and data scientists so that the rest of us can continue to use their products and services in a way that benefits us the most.