Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Technology Quarterly : Civilian Drones Economist June 10, 2017

The Economist concentrated this report on the incipient and growing drone industry. Most of the public hears about the use of drones in combat or the desire of internet firms, such as Amazon, to employ them for delivery. The five articles that make up this series span the topics of the companies that produce drones, the industries that buy and use drones, the future of the technology, and the regulations required to manage it.

For our purposes, this blog focuses on how drones factor in infrastructure planning, building, and maintenance. In the article, Seeing Is Believing, the author points to the construction industry as an early adopter. Promoted by the inability to control budgets, construction firms view the problem of overruns as an information issue. According to Chris Anderson of 3D Robotics, construction firms seek to ameliorate the problem through, what he calls, "reality capture, using technology to measure buildings precisely during construction and track the use of raw materials on site to ensure that everything is going according to plan. Drones are ideally suited to the task" (pp. 8-9). By generating point clouds with LiDAR (light detection and ranging), firms compare reality to their models.  The use of drones also conforms to the safety requirements of construction sites--enclosed areas with protective clothing rules.

In the construction and agricultural industries, drones assist with grading and fine grading of the land. By capturing the topography of the land, within an hour rather than the days conventional methods take, drones reduce cost and time. John Deere, the manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment has partnered with Kespry, a drone and related software start-up, to exploit this benefit.

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