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Artificial intelligence and drones are a match made in tech heaven. Pairing the real-time machine learning technology of AI with the exploratory abilities of unmanned drones gives ground-level operators a human-like eye-in-the-sky.
More than ever before, drones play key problem-solving roles in a variety of sectors — including defense, agriculture, natural disaster relief, security and construction. With their ability to increase efficiency and improve safety, drones have become important tools for everyone from firefighters to farmers. Smart UAVs are so popular, in fact, that they’re now used on more than 400,000 jobs sites worldwide.
12 Ways AI is Shaping the Drone Industry
1. Construction Sites
Construction companies use AI drones to scan and map the terrain of building sites, doing in 15 minutes a job that takes days for humans to complete, Drones give a bird’s eye view of the construction vehicles during the project, providing information to possibly create self-guided equipment in the future.
2. Smart Cities
A team at Microsoft Research says self-driving cars will be common by 2020, and the technology will spread to delivery vehicles, including everything from take-out food and prescription medications to public services. Drones may also be used to solve traffic problems or engineering dilemmas. In Rwanda, the use of AI has already lowered the wait for blood for transfusions from four hours to fifteen minutes.
3. Emergency Drones
Drones can be used to drop supplies to disaster victims in hard to reach locations, as well as to people in isolated areas during an emergency. Possibilities range from food for hurricane victims to medications for snake bites to hikers in the wilderness. They can also assess structural damage after a disaster, help firefighters see the exact locations of a fire, aid with chemical spills, and show emergency responders where to located injured people. They can carry police cameras and pepper spray or spot violent behavior in large crowds, as well as provide remote consultations with doctors.
In the past, farmers relied on experience and intuition for things like the best time to plant their crops or sow seeds for a garden. AI technology helps them do everything from determining the best time to plant to applying the right amount of fertilizer at just the right time. It can also aid farmers in spotting diseased crops or for managing solar farming technology.
5. Military and Defense
Google is currently working with the Pentagon to develop AI for unmanned combat, and the technology is already being used for tasks like patrolling borders, tracking storms, performing safety inspections, and monitoring security. Military drones can carry supplies, weapons, or cameras.
6. Industrial Infrastructure
Drones are being used by companies like the GE subsidiary Avitas Systems to inspect their infrastructure, including power lines, transportation, and pipelines. Drones can do the job more efficiently and safely, but they can also prevent problems by identifying inconsistencies in data. Some railway companies used drones in their safety inspections.
7. Face Recognition and Insurance Claim Processing
Some insurance companies use drones to survey damaged buildings, snapping images and wirelessly transmitting to the company for faster processing. Other companies use drones for simplifying face recognition or deterring cyber attacks, and the taxi-alternative Lyft is researching self-operated cars.
8. Amateur Drones
One company is developing a drone that can be used out-of-the-box by anyone who is interested in photography but is particularly suited for photographers who are also surfers, downhill skiers, UAV pilots, or runners. It also has applications for recording action sports and other events in real time.
9. Real-Time Data
Drones can be used by commercial, industrial, and service organizations to provide instant surveillance in multiple locations instantly, eliminating the need for human surveillance or spending endless hours searching through recorded information.
10. Creating “Perfect” Models for Instruction
An article in Forbes discusses the use of drones to analyze accumulated data and use it to produce a training manual showing employees how to be smarter, faster, and more precise on their jobs.
11. Real Estate
Sophisticated drones with cameras are being used by real estate companies to provide photographs of homes and commercial buildings, as well as aerial maps and local information for home buyers.
12. Entertainment, Media, and the Internet
Filmmakers and news media are using drones to capture aerial footage, sometimes without the FAA’s permission, and to shoot scenes on closed sets. So far, the Federal Aviation Administration has not approved drones for use by the media, forcing them to rely on footage by private users. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook recently announced a plan to provide internet access to remote areas of the globe by using solar-powered drones.
Drones can go to places that are inaccessible to people, capturing powerful images and recording important data that would otherwise be unavailable. From drones that helped in Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery to unmanned NASA vehicles that transform from drones to planes while inflight, scientists are using UAVs with artificial intelligence to make great changes in the world.