Drones can do far more than just take pretty pictures from above. Due to advanced technologies, drones cannot be missed in industries like proptech or utilities. As a result, Taku International recognizes and embraces their huge potential. These 5 advanced drone technologies represent the most promising trends in drones to keep an eye on this year.

by Kira Brakhage

1. Data first

As the automotive industry knows from Tesla and other autonomous vehicle manufacturers, collecting data is a key feature of any new project. When that data becomes easily available to analyze for insights and immediate actions, the collection of data becomes even more valuable. So why not put this principle into action in the air? The increased growth in enterprise drone use is the ultimate source for data, as sensors are used throughout the drone’s flight to acquire information about their surroundings and the environment.

What for?

Drones make up an entirely new category of tools. They carry material, maybe someday even people; they can help identify harmful substances, capture visuals to spot defects and help avoid explosions or collapses, or locate crash victims or people trapped somewhere, by using their thermal cameras. Just these few examples show that the data generated through onboard analysis can deliver actionable insights to help individuals perform their jobs safer and more efficiently. 

2. Talkative drones

 New hardware and software enables sensor-carrying drones to communicate additional mission critical information to/from the pilot – who may be just as much a programmer as s/he is a drone pilot. Through application programming interfaces (APIs), users will be able to customize their drone to meet specific sensing requirements, to talk with their drones in flight (beyond just the traditional flight controls), and to enable the drones to communicate sensor information peer-to-peer.

What for?

Using, for example, LIDAR technology (light detection and ranging instruments), communicating drones could evaluate local atmospheric conditions and communicate them using WiFi. The more drones talk with each other, the easier it could also be to help in special situations with disaster relief. This point brings us directly to one of the next trends in advanced drone technology (social networks or swarms).

3. Autonomous flying

Sure, flying a drone is fun, but after a few flights most people would like the drone to take care of itself. Wouldn’t it be great if the drone could witness an event, scan a building or film a landscape all on its own? Good news, there will be made huge progress in autonomous flying this year. Even if we still have humans in the loop for mission planning or possibly even high level path planning, drones can “see” in front of themselves, use real-time machine vision capabilities to identify and avoid oncoming obstacles.

What for?

For specific situations, drones will be able to operate on their own. Especially for urgent disaster relief situations, this enables them to operate faster and more efficient.

4. The social network

The true power of drones becomes realized when they are connected into swarms, where drones not only communicate with each other but also directly influence each other’s behavior to create an emergent entity, the swarm. An estimated over 7 million drones by 2020 in the US brings great potential. Those drones alone will not bring a great advantage. It is rather the coordination of an integrated network that is of great use in the future.

What for?

Once drones are able to not just communicate data but can actively collaborate on a task, their usefulness increases dramatically. Imagine two drones flying together, while one lifts an object near a disaster area and the other “looks” beneath it to check on a survivor.

5. The long run

 Longer and higher: Because of hardware improvements, drones like the DJI Mavic can fly distances up to five miles (8 kilometers) and reach greater altitudes. The record for the highest drone flight ever was at 33,000 feet in the air, a common height for airplanes. However, without special permission, the limit at least in the US remains at 400 feet.

What for?

The advantages of hardware improvements are obvious: a longer range enables more flexibility and therefore more areas of use. As a pilot program, on the German North Sea island Juist drones already deliver medicine from the mainland, which is only possible due to the longer range of the drones used by the postal service.

The big issue:

In parallel with the emerging advancements in technology, there will of course be more reasons for not only privacy, but also ethical and safety concerns for the general public. More headlines on unauthorized drones and new regulations by the FAA and ULC (Uniform Law Commission) are to be expected.