How drones are shaping top industry trends | Part 2

Small and micro drones have been the calling card in multiple industries for operational excellence and improved yield or process efficiency. Why do drones appear extensively in all projected industrial trends post-2020? Here’s another deep-dive into this question. We will quickly pick up where we left off.

In this article, we would look into some of the major drone applications and their growing adoption in key industrial processes.

Precision agriculture with drones

Agriculture has been one of the early cornerstones of civilization. It has grown as an industry. Many countries are still considered primarily agrarian economies. However, the need to increase the overall yield has pushed the farmers to a point of over or misguided use of fertile land. Either they aren’t planning their harvest to its full potential, or they are overindulging in fertilizers or pesticides bringing down the quality of the standing crop and the soil alike.

Drones are the ideal start-to-end partner when it comes to bringing ‘precision’ and planning in agriculture. Farmers can have the overhead drones survey and map each rise and fold of the field. The resultant soil and fertility analysis would suggest the optimal sowing pattern. Furthermore, the farmers would be able to track the health and growth of each plant, spotting diseases or infections very early. This would result in targeted use of pesticides.

The Infrared mapping of the standing crop would also suggest which batches require more (or less) water, thus responsibly directing irrigation. The farmers could conduct drone-enabled hyperspectral imaging to understand the ripeness at different stages of crop growth. This would help in timing the harvesting of the crops while planning for the connected storage and logistics.

Here are some of the drone benefits lined up for quick assessment.

(a) Surveying and mapping of arable land with 3D contour and elevation mapping

(b) Conducting deep analytical surveys:

i. Optimized Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (OSAVI)
ii. Normalized Distribution Vegetation Index (NDVI)
iii. Weighted Distribution Vegetation Index (WDVI)
iv. Hyperspectral or Multispectral Imaging
v. Near-Infrared Imaging (NIR)

(c) Irrigation planning and execution

(d) Targeted use of fertilizers and pesticides (and in the exact amount required)

(e) Cutting down on resource wastage (time, material and water) and environmental impact

(f) Live and automated surveying of large sections of the field in quick time (cutting down wastage or theft)

(g) Timing the warehouse and logistics according to the harvest timelines for optimal use of rented space or services

The market for drones in the agriculture industry is set to increase at a CAGR of 31.4% ($1.2 billion in 2019 to $4.8 billion by 2024 – according to a recent study). There’s strong reason, like the few stated above, to back greater drone-led innovation and progress in agriculture in the coming years.

Mining made resource-efficient with drones

More than 70% of global mining companies have either trialed or adopted drones for their operations. Drones don’t just save millions in efficiency improvement and agile operations, but also greatly improve on-site safety.

Mining industry isn’t immune to global trade fluctuations. Traditionally, it has been the primary sector which in-turn supports multiple industries (connected and subsequent – logistics, automobile, construction, chemicals, etc.). Drones help bring consistency, transparency and fluidity in the planning and execution of all mining operations from faster asset inspections and volumetric estimations to lesser resource wastage.

(a) Surveying and mapping of prospective mining blocks

(b) Sub-surface analysis with Induced Polarization and Geophysical Imaging

(c) Upstream and midstream resource and freight planning

(d) Surrounding watershed and vegetative mapping

(e) Blast planning and safeguards

(f) Live surveillance of operations/processes to avoid bottlenecks

(g) Change detection and volumetric estimations of stockpiles

(h) On-time, effective, precise and documented asset inspections

(i) Close inspections of tailing dams and other hazardous entities within the mining site

(j) Improving overall safety standards

The global mining automation market, including a big-boost from drones, would grow at 4.1% CAGR in revenue from 2019-2024 to reach $3.2 billion. Small and micro UAVs are taking huge strides, or should we say leaps, in mining.

Oil and Gas – Improving production and efficiency with drones

As you have seen, drones have become a growth and efficiency driver among many industries. The return on investment (ROI) for drones in oil and gas, is far more pronounced than other sectors. The drone services market is set to grow at a CAGR of 60.96% (2020-2025) within the Oil and Gas industry.

Oil and gas markets trigger multiple growth indexes around the world. Companies strive to improve on their barrels per day yield while reducing their carbon footprint. Drones help streamline their operations across the upstream, midstream and downstream processes. Detailed and precise drone-enabled analytics help the oil and gas industry cut down total barrel cost (of production) and increase plant/well efficiency.

(a) Upstream surveying and mapping with effective 3D Digital Elevation Modelling

(b) Precise location identification for test-drilling (with sub-surface imaging)

(c) Nearby watershed and vegetative mapping

(d) Logistics and infrastructure planning (using detailed GIS support)

(e) Pipeline laying and connectivity mapping (with Right-of-way implementation)

(f) Detailed, regular and close operational surveillance

(g) Inspection of on-shore and off-shore wells

(h) Inspection of pipelines, storage tanks and flare stacks

(i) Close thermal and visual imaging of pipelines to spot faults or cracks

Construction, real estate and infrastructure – Building a future with drones

Evolution, as a concept, has taken a different meaning in the new world. Individuals, societies and countries are investing in sturdy and progressive structures (building, factories, roads, bridges, etc.). The logistics sector in India is growing at a healthy rate of 10.5% CAGR to reach (expected) $215 billion in 2020.

This a key indicator for higher industrial and commercial interconnectivity across the nation. Furthermore, the country is putting in ways and means to increase its annual infrastructure spend to around $200 billion (double its current spending).

Drones are the ideal and foremost catalyst to improve on the timelines of the current and future projects. Drone-backed infrastructure and construction innovations would continue to carve a clear niche and advantage for its adopters. Here are a few drone benefits in construction, real estate and infrastructure.

(a) Detailed Post-Processing Kinematic and Real-Time Kinematic mapping

(b) Precise 3D Digital Elevation and Contour Modelling for effective resource and material procurement

(c) Effective project planning with accurate time and cost projections for better operational control

(d) Close inspections of structure and work, even around hard-to-access points

(e) Surface anomaly or tension detection with LiDAR or Infrared Imaging

(f) Volumetric estimations using precise photogrammetry and orthomosaic imagery

(g) Live project surveillance for total transparency and accountability (connecting multiple stakeholders)

(h) Boosting project efficiency, development and handover (timelines and quality)

Drones, like the Internet, are a means to an end. Within the last decade, defence and enterprise interests have readily adopted small and micro drones as an efficiency-booster and a resource-multiplier. The next decade would see deeper and more evolved applications of the same drones within these industries.

Regulations and technology for drones are finally walking toe-to-toe. ideaForge continues to hold the torch for better and responsible drone applications. This light is sure to clear a bright part ahead.

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