The popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones has transformed the vision of a flight without pilots into a reality. A prototype of the first drone was created back in 1935. Nevertheless, they soared in popularity (and into the open skies) for their numerous applications in technology in 2015.

In the years that followed, drones have continued to evolve in terms of appearance, function and technicalities. This has led to them being adopted in almost every industry imaginable. Most popularly its use is in the construction, defence and insurance industries. The prime use cases of drones are in inspection and maintenance, mapping, surveying and photography. Drones are completing tasks that are unsafe (tricky location) or impossible (not for human access) in a more affordable manner.

However, a major aspect that has been pushing the boundaries off late is the exciting overlap between drone technology and mobile IoT.

The Intersection of Drone Technology and Mobile IoT

The use of drone technologies in an environment of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been viewed as a symbiotic relationship. The prime advantage is for two main reasons. The most important consideration is that drones can extend networks further than previous versions by adding mobile IoT endpoints. Given that most enterprise processes happen at the edge of the network, this is particularly helpful. On the other end, the capabilities of mobile IoT devices have been extended too.

Drones have been proven to allow access to inaccessible locations, to explore and gather data on locations hard to reach. Mobile IoT technology could convert the humble drone into a mobile sensor that takes it a step further and relays real-time data. Drones also maintain the IoT endpoints by acting as remote inspection devices that cut down human dependency. Small-scale maintenance can be done using drones - making it affordable, safer and quicker to address the ongoing necessities.

A Few Important Things to Consider when it comes to Drone Technology & Mobile IoT

Since drones and mobile IoT are new technologies, there are certain considerations to keep in mind. These include:

Flying restrictions

The use of drones is controlled by respective regulatory authorities based on the country of use. It is important to keep aware of the best practices when it comes to flight areas and limits.

Drone software and functional compatibility

All drones are equipped with two softwares - one to ensure its flight and control its path and the second tailored on what function it has to serve. The second aspect should be carefully altered on the user’s specific need. This must be done in a manner that is compatible and can integrate easily with the drone’s operating system and existing software.

Compatibility of communication with a currently existing networked environment

The user must ensure that the forms of communication in the drone will integrate with the existing IoT infrastructure. While most drones use WiFi, LTE broadband using a SIM card can tap into 4G technology, improving its functionality.

Battery life[Text Wrapping Break]At present, drones and their flight and functionality are powered by a battery. Developments in battery technologies are allowing for longer flight times. Increased functionality with solar batteries is emerging as a victor in drone use.

Use Cases for IoT Drones[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]There are several use cases wherein the use of drone technology has supplemented existing IoT frameworks. A prime example includes how the use of cheaper, faster and safer drones replaces risking human life to gather data from a roving aerial position for the visualisation of power lines and turbines in the energy industry or large farmlands in agriculture or package delivery or even site inspection in civil industries. The information collected by the drones is quickly relayed back via the cloud or other data-gathering platforms with IoT attachments to provide real-time data. This function of the drones with IoT can be further supplemented with sensors and infrared technology to perform the job better.

Let’s briefly summarise the IoT drone use cases already in existence today:

  • Drones used for Search and Rescue

Drones fitted with motion and infrared sensors coupled with the cameras can provide an unblocked aerial view for large landscapes to successfully carry out search and rescue missions, even at hours and locations where a human-led force may be unable to. In addition to just visualisation, the drones can also drop off essential supplies and floatation devices for rescue projects. There are several anecdotes of people who have been saved using this use case of IoT drones.

  • Defence Drones

IoT drones are widely in use by the military and defence systems in several countries tapping into their surveillance abilities. They work out to be a more affordable and safer option for sending out spies to gather information.

  • Agriculture Drones

Drones in agriculture are used in several ways, right from an aerial visualisation of large farmlands for analysis to managing pests to the distribution of fertilisers and pesticides. They can also reduce human dependency on the manually laborious process of sowing seeds.

  • First Aid Drones

In instances where medical supplies need to reach remote areas in the quickest manner possible, IoT drones emerge as the most plausible solution. This, however, needs to be supplemented with the deployment of emergency services too to look into the situation, but the immediate first aid materials provided may be useful in buying valuable time.

  • Cargo and Delivery Drones

Major e-commerce, food and medical companies are intending to expand their delivery networks with the use of IoT drones, only pending approvals from respective markets. Safe to say, the future is now.

  • Drones used in Entertainment

One of the most recent applications of IoT drones that have marvelled viewers globally is the use of drones in the entertainment sector. This could be something as simple as a panoramic shot for a film to replacing fireworks with an impressive drone light show to countdown New Year’s as was done by Hyundai in Seoul to ring in 2021!

The above use cases are just a peek behind the curtain of the abilities to merge these two technologies together. It is wise to note that, in fact, the possibilities are endless.