When the first UAV was constructed in 1849, essentially an unmanned hot air balloon, a variety of possibilities suddenly took flight. Today, drones are utilised both commercially and personally. While the future of drones promises smarter factories and improvements to manufacturing processes, UAVs have been serving new and, in some cases, unusual purposes.
Drones for studying wildlife
In addition to studying ocean life aerially, a drone has been modified to collect the exhaled mucus from whales. A whale’s blowhole offers a variety of biological information that is essential for researchers. From the mucus collected by the ‘SnotBot’ drone, researchers can study:
- Stress hormones
- Pregnancy hormones
and more. Additionally, EarBot drones have been utilised to source bioacoustics data from whales. Not only do these UAVs promise a non-invasive method of learning more about our ocean life, but they are also more cost-effective and safe.
Drones as isolation enforcement
December saw the outbreak of coronavirus, which has now spread to over 160 countries. To prevent further spread of COVID-19, some countries have declared public emergencies and imposed lockdowns.
Already, drones with loudspeakers have been utilised to spread messages in France, Spain, Cyprus and California; communicating to people out in public that they must respect social distancing measures or reinforcing that travel is prohibited.
In addition to communicating with the public, drones may be utilised to assist law enforcement workers with lockdown measures in the coming days. The models currently in use measure in at approximately a foot in diameter and weigh 1.7lbs.
Drones as dog walkers
Previous uses of UAVs have included transporting vital organs for donation, monitoring pollution levels and implementing safer turbine management. On the 18th March the use of one personal drone, in particular, flooded the internet.
An individual in Cyprus, on the fifth day of his coronavirus quarantine, used his drone to exercise his dog. The dog’s lead was attached to the drone as it went about its daily exercise.
Perhaps dog walking wasn’t one of the uses envisioned during the planning and engineering of modern drones; however, this does highlight the versatility of the machines.
Perhaps the most exciting evolution of drones is bio-inspired. Drones in the form of insects, hummingbirds and bats are more versatile, performing actions such as:
- Flying in figures of eight
- Hovering on the spot
- Turning 180 degrees
- Flipping 360 degrees
- Perching upside-down
These bio-inspired drones are not commercially available yet; they are either still in development or being trialled. However, the vision of these types of UAVs span from military use, as defence or supplying frontlines, in search and rescue missions and to better serve the construction industry.
Whether planned or not, it is clear that the application of drones are even more far-reaching than anyone could have predicted. The future possibilities of UAVs are seemingly endless.