Last week the FAA issued new regulations for the use of drones, approving those that weigh less than 55 pounds, fly slower than 100 MPH, stay under 400 feet, travel only in daytime and operate in line of sight. This opens up a new world of possibilities to replace human labor in dirty, dangerous or inconvenient situations. In most cases, it’s cheaper and faster, too.
Should you be considering using them in your workplace? Check out this list of uses for drones so far. And of course, like any new technology, the real innovative usages probably haven’t even been thought of yet.
• Media – replace traffic helicopters, report live on-location without calling in big, expensive helicopters.
• Crop dusting – replace humans in this dangerous activity. It’s already happened in Japan, where over 90% of farmland is sprayed with drones.
• Police – take live video of crime scenes to give commanders better-quality, real-time information.
• Military – Already widely used and documented, weaponized drones can take out enemies without risk of pilot death or injury. Much cheaper too. Can also be used for intelligence gathering.
• Utilities – Utility lineworkers are one of the 20 most dangerous professions in the U.S. Drones can perform the dangerous tasks of line inspections and maintenance, turbine blade inspections and storm damage assessments. In Spain, drones are even used for sewer inspections.
• Municipalities – Monitor bridges, light fixtures, towers.
• Property & casualty – Insurance inspectors can photograph storm damage, roofs, building collapses.
• Real estate developers – Evaluate, photograph and market properties. This not only replaces old activities, but creates new opportunities such as a fly-by video of an average-priced home or commercial building.
• Package delivery – Amazon and Wal-Mart are both experimenting with this, although the regulations announced last week still don’t allow the activity.
• Oil & gas exploration – Companies can explore rugged territory where only helicopters could go before.
This list is likely only a partial description of where drones could – and eventually will – operate. As they get cheaper and easier to operate, new ideas for their use will spring up in areas not yet considered.
Should you use drones in your workplace today? If you have employees who work in confined spaces, routinely work on building roofs, climb ladders, photograph or video products & events, or fly helicopters or small planes, then the answer is probably yes.