Physical Technology - Drones

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Drones have quickly evolved beyond purely entertainment use as the modern equivalent of a remote controlled helicopter. As battery technology improved, increasing carry capacity and distance, drones became commonplace for mapping and photography applications, which led to a range of commercial applications. These have included agricultural and industrial complexes (checking equipment) and for use in security through aerial monitoring. More recently, the delivery of goods has been effected by drone. Dubai Airport is trialling drone taxis to transport people from the airport to the city and drones have also been used to deliver medical supplies and equipment in places that are difficult to access. Walmart is using drones in its warehouses to check inventory and can do in a day what previously took humans a month.

Other current commercial applications include the use of industrial drones to carry out inspections on oil and gas rigs in dangerous or hard to get places, this includes not only visual inspections, but thermal and sonar technology too. Drones are frequently used in agriculture where they can efficiently cover large parcels of land to report on crops, driving efficiencies by detailing their health, need for water, nutrients and fertilizers. In a construction context, drones are used to assist the design, construction and even demolition of buildings.

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Inspecting infrastructure such as dams, telephone towers, electricity and gas infrastructure, where a physical inspection would cost upwards of $3,000, can be completed by drone for under $300. Even cleaning debris from overhead electricity wires, a dangerous and time-consuming job, can be done by drone – faster, safer and cheaper.

Amazon Air is being developed to aid the delivery of “the last mile” in a more timely, economic and environmentally friendly manner using drones. These drones are capable of carrying up to 2kgs, which covers 86% of Amazon’s inventory and is likely to be a game changer for the retailer.

To learn what’s next in the rapid world of technology, contact Tony Crabb, National Director, Research.

Read more of Cushman & Wakefield’s Futurology series, click here.