Drones are streamlining work in many industries. Nowadays, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) monitor fields, pastures, and power plants. They warn rescuers about approaching sharks and do a lot of things that used to seem like science fiction. What are the prospects of unmanned technologies? And why is drone software development of great interest to various industries?
The structure and functions of drones
Initially, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were created for military intelligence based on expensive and inaccessible technologies. With the development of these products and the growth of their popularity, there appeared special applications for them. Nowadays, drone development technology is constantly being updated.
The physical body of the drone, an aircraft, is equipped with sensors and devices. For example, cameras based on computer vision allow taking high-quality and accurate photos (4K at 120 fps) even during rapid and chaotic movement of the vehicle. Propellers let the drone overcome air resistance and fly along the required trajectory without losing speed or altitude. Drones move using GPS technology. The built-in compass finds the location of satellites and allows the drone to fly.
Mobile applications allow controlling drones with the help of a smartphone and real-time monitoring. The basic UAV functionality can be enhanced, depending on the goals of the customer.
A drone has several relevant capabilities. It can “see”, “feel”, “move”, and “transform”. According to this classification, drones can:
- protect people from dangerous work;
- automate workflows;
- reduce task execution time;
- replace more costly methods of work;
- open paths to hard-to-reach objects;
- perform tasks more efficiently.
We’ll show how the use cases listed above work in practice.
A study of the UAV industry shows that the market will grow by 13.27% per year. People use drones in inspection, surveying, logistics, agriculture, law enforcement, etc.
Experts have calculated that in 2035 more than 100,000 unmanned aircraft and spacecraft will be able to constantly fly in the sky. But outdoor navigation is not the only use case for drones. UAV manufacturers are interested in optimizing their work inside residential and industrial premises. The prospects for such unmanned assistants are immense.
By 2025, the medical drones market will reach $399 billion. Drones have proven reliable in delivering medical supplies to disaster areas. In 2019, a UAV delivered a kidney for transplant. It covered a distance of 2.8 miles in 10 minutes. Drones are helping UK hospitals to bring COVID-19 tests to laboratories more regularly, reliably, and quickly, reducing physical contact.
Unmanned technologies improve the work of medical institutions. With their help, medical staff, patients, and visitors can navigate hospital departments. Patients experience less stress and find an office faster when the program tells them where to go in an unfamiliar building. Employees use drone mapping software to determine which part of the clinic has the equipment they need.
Such large online stores as Amazon and Walmart are looking to speed up the delivery of goods using drones. Businesses are testing UAV-based delivery services to bring orders to customers more quickly. For example, Amazon Prime Air plans to deliver packages weighing up to five pounds in half an hour. And the indoor navigation system reduces the time to find the right products in the seller’s warehouse.
UAVs can also collect real-time customer data. This information can improve the shopping experience by directing buyers to products and optimizing marketplaces based on the visitor flow.
Drones facilitate making inventories in retail stores, warehouses, and distribution centres. Usually, the counting procedure takes thousands of working hours and a lot of money because goods are constantly in motion and regular accounting is needed. Drones fly around the warehouse, scan barcodes, and send data to inventory management software. Advanced drones can take off, charge, and return to the base completely autonomously, without human intervention.
Statista estimates that at $33 billion by 2030, logistics drones will constitute the largest share of the global market.
- Large enterprises
It can be difficult to orientate in offices, universities, factories and plants, and other organizations. A drone-based indoor navigation system solves this problem.
With the help of an application, employees can easily find free conference rooms and nearby food courts. In addition, air conditioners, printers, heating systems and other company assets that employees need should be taken into account when developing drone software.
- Rescue organizations
UAVs are involved in extinguishing large-scale fires in California forests and other places. They can fly over areas dangerous for conventional aircraft, informing about fires. They are programmed to throw ping-pong-ball-sized devices that blast the ground, thus stopping the fire from spreading.
In 2020, drones saved the lives of over 500 missing people. With the help of a thermal imaging camera, the device detects a person and directs rescuers to them.
Drones can cope with emergencies inside buildings. For example, they monitor enterprises and detect leaks of chemicals, gas, fire, reporting this information to people. The indoor navigation system helps rescuers to orientate themselves in unfamiliar buildings, quickly detect the hotbed of fire, find fire extinguishers, hydrants, and other firefighting equipment. When every minute counts, such assistance saves lives and minimizes material damage.
The potential of unmanned technologies is relevant for industries that require visual inspection of complex equipment or structures for their maintenance. These can be oil storage tanks, industrial boilers, mines, sewages, and other hard-to-reach objects.
Visual inspection of industrial facilities by specialists requires a lot of time, money, and can be life-threatening. A drone frees people from risky and complex work allowing them to conduct inspections virtually in real time.
For example, France adopted a law that obliges all major cities to inspect their sewers by 2026. Suez RV Osis carries out diagnostics of huge sewage systems using special drones. A device detects clogging; it also makes sure if all pipes are intact and whether there is a threat of collapses. Usually, specialists perform this dangerous work manually, risking their lives.
There are over 128 commercial and non-commercial drone use cases in 22 different industries. Most of them concern GPS-based outdoor navigation. Drones operating indoors have certain limitations.
- Security system
Drones patrol the territory, looking for traces of the invasion in places hidden from video cameras. The images taken by the device are transmitted to the software letting the guard monitor the movement of the UAV. The drone detects the exact location of the intruder so that the security officer can report the coordinates to the police. During the pandemic, when entire departments of the security service were in hospitals or under quarantine, aircraft guarded industrial buildings, shops, and offices.
A drone-based security system is used to guard private homes. With a frequency set by the user, the drone perambulates the rooms and sends pictures to the owner’s smartphone. Thus, the owner can remotely monitor the property while at work, on a trip or vacation.
Statista researchers estimate that 9.6 million drones will be needed to meet the consumer demand in 2030, which is almost double the amount in 2020.
Why not all drones can fly indoors
GPS drones cannot fly indoors. Compasses do not always function correctly there, the GPS signal is not available, and there is often not enough light. Drones must be small to move freely in a confined space. That is why providing them with additional equipment (cameras, lights, etc.) is problematic. The device becomes heavier, and the visual odometer (a means of estimating the location of the drone) may fail.
Navigation is difficult in poorly lit rooms or buildings with complex layouts, not to mention sewage systems or mines. It is necessary to have special drone software with a navigation system to make the aircraft move around the building. Efficient solutions allow UAVs not to depend on the outdoor environment (GPS), fly in any confined spaces, underground and underwater, saving companies money and relieving employees from life-threatening work.
The prospects of drone software programming
The indoor navigation technology for drones is improving. Combining mapping software and indoor navigation allows adjusting the route based on the obstacles encountered. For example, when an elevator is out of order in one wing of a building, the system suggests going to a functioning elevator in another part of the building or going downstairs. Similarly, drones can guide people to the fastest and safest route to the exit during a fire.
Indoor navigation can become the backbone of smart parking. This will save time on finding a free parking place. Thus, a person won’t be late for work or a meeting. Drivers will be able to book parking spaces closer to their point of arrival. Sanitary services can use indoor navigation for ultraviolet disinfection. Using drones with a UV lamp reduces the need for traditional environmentally unfriendly cleaning products.
PwC estimates that the global drone business services market is worth more than $127 billion. UAVs can significantly optimize work processes and protect people. Drone software development is essential for such corporations as Uber, UPS, Amazon, and Alphabet. But it is also crucially important for medium businesses and startups. Modern indoor navigation and mapping solutions meet unique business requirements. Thus, they can be of great help to companies from various industries.