Whether it involves agriculture, logistics or even an industrial accident of the type that occurred at Fukushima: Drones, or "multi-copters", can be used for a wide variety of applications. The opportunities for unmanned systems on land or water are virtually unlimited.
They help out with jumbo jet maintenance, with grain farming , and may soon deliver your packages : Drones are lending wing to entrepreneurial visions. And it's no wonder, because they bring fascinating scenarios to life – including in logistics and agriculture.
Until just a few years ago, drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were restricted to military uses. Today these flying machines are a mass phenomenon. Controlled via smartphone and equipped with high-resolution cameras, they have applications in business as well as for personal use. Their economic potential in particular is huge – and likely to grow at a rapid pace. Because as flying eyes and mail carriers they have the right stuff to bring entire value chains to a new level.
In logistics, drones can be used both in-house and externally. They can further warehouse automation by collecting goods from high-bay storage, as well as bringing packages directly to customers.
Nearly all online retailers and logistics operators are paying attention to drones, and pilot projects have been in place for years – from Amazon and Alibaba to Google and Facebook, as well as UPS and DHL
A few hurdles remain before a package can really be delivered by express drone, however. Currently mini-drones can only manage weights of up to 2.5 kilograms, which significantly limits their utilization.
Their range of less than 20 kilometers limits deliveries to customers in urban areas. And that is precisely where more regulations are in place because of nearby airports – so that authorizations are required from the proper aviation authorities to operate. Still, the opportunities are so huge that businesses will continue to work on solutions. Exciting developments lie ahead.
Developments in agriculture have advanced much further. The sector calls it "precision farming": Drones already fly independently over fields to generate precise topographical maps of soil composition, or spy out fawns before the harvesters arrive. Sensors integrated into the drones offer farmers a highly informative image of the condition of the plants and soil: This helps determine ripeness and the best time for harvest, as well as assess damage from hail or pests, or better regulate the use of pesticides.