The biggest challenge for today’s modern drones is finding something they can’t do.
Every time I look at the news, it seems that drones are now doing something totally new and outrageous.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining at all – I’m just utterly amazed at drone technology. And I’m even more surprised at the beautiful things that drones are doing with humankind all over the globe.
If you haven’t been paying attention, these little guys are actually helping people really need some help – which is so damn refreshing. Usually, new technology is not targeted at those of us who can’t afford the merchandise – not at least for several years.
Amazing modern drone uses
As you look over how drones are being used today, you’ll notice that they are doing so across a broad spectrum of genres, markets, and people. Their versatility is perhaps the most incredible thing about them.
Drone uses a flamethrower to torch wasp nests
Hundreds of wasp nests have been destroyed in China using a drone converted to a flamethrower.
The volunteer search and rescue group Blue Sky Rescue has teamed with villagers in one of the counties near Chongqing to provide search and rescue assistance.
A drone that was outfitted with a gas tank along with an arm-length nozzle costs 80,000 yuan ($12,200).
Blue Sky has documented a recent mission by the six-arm drone. The drone hovers over a hive the size of a suitcase before swooping down. The operator flips the ignition switch, and the drone shoots fire at the swarm.
Automated laser drones hunt for minerals and fossils
Developed at HKU, laser-stimulated fluorescence (LSF) reveals otherwise invisible details of fossil bones, including skin and cartilage, by making them glow. Laser spotting from an aerial system is possible since lasers can project over long distances with minor power loss.
The LSF drone system developed by Dr. Michael Pittman (Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory, Division of Earth & Planetary Science and Department of Earth Sciences) along with a colleague named Thomas G Kaye of the Foundation for Scientific Advancement. With the nickname ‘Laser Raptor,’ the system was created to seek out fossils that have been exposed on the surface.
This prototype carried pre-programmed flight paths during the day, but it scoured the badlands of Wyoming and Arizona for fossils during the night. In addition to flying rapidly to search locations, Laser Raptor descends between four and five meters above ground to ‘mow the lawn’ in search of glowing targets as small as a thumbnail. After each “mission” is complete, the video of the laser scan is processed to identify hot spots that are investigated the following day, which results in new fossil specimens being found.
Fluorescence is highly sensitive to differences in mineral composition. It was initially designed to locate fossils, but Laser Raptor is also capable of searching for a wide range of fluorescent targets such as minerals, gemstones, shellfish, and cyanobacteria, as well as archeological artifacts and structures.
Using drones to forecast urban flooding
Together with RSS-Hydro, the University of Luxembourg is working to optimize the prediction of flooding in Burange, a town in the south of Luxembourg. A project supporting the City of Dudelange aims to build a unique and specific model of the urban terrain with the help of drones, satellite images, and aerial images.
Climate change is probably responsible for the increasing frequency and intensity of this phenomenon. According to Professor Norman Teferle, who leads the Geodesy and Geospatial Engineering department at the University of Luxembourg, floods, particularly flash floods, are leading natural hazards in Europe and globally.
The team’s paper, “Towards a high-resolution drone-based 3-D mapping dataset to optimize flood hazard modeling,” provided an overview of the local flooding problem and presented preliminary proof of concept studies for the project.
Using 3-D imaging technologies, remote sensing, and hydrology, researchers from the Geodesy and Geospatial Engineering group of the Department of Engineering at the University of Luxembourg have partnered with scientists from the startup RSS-Hydro advance research into urban flooding.
Using drones to create local quantum networks
China-based researchers have created a prototype for a small airborne quantum network using drones. They describe sending entangled particles from one drone to another and then from the drone to the ground in their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
The goal of computer scientists, physicists, and engineers has been to build a quantum network that everyone can use—doing so would involve sending entangled particles between users, and the result would be the most secure network ever built. The researchers have used fiber cables, transmission towers, and even satellites in entangled particle searches. In this new effort, they are using drones.
Satellites may be ideal for building long-range quantum networks, but they are not the best option for local networks. To circumvent this problem, researchers used drones to carry the signals. While towers may be of some use, they are subject to weather and obstruction, whether intentional or unintentional.
Fly a drone to Titan to search for life
NASA recently announced a mission to Saturn’s largest moon Titan to search for life’s building blocks.
It will launch in 2026 and land in 2034, and its rotorcraft will fly to dozens of locations on the icy moon, which has a substantial atmosphere and is viewed by scientists as equivalent to very early Earth.
The only other celestial body is liquid rivers, lakes, and seas containing hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane, not water.
Scientists believe that the knowledge we could gain from this mysterious ocean could revolutionize our understanding of the universe. Such an undertaking would have been unthinkable in just a few years, but today, it’s more than plausible.
The NASA project will use an eight-rotor vehicle that flies like a drone.