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The Evolution Of Commercial Drone Technology

The Evolution Of Commercial Drone Technology


  1. Military History of Drone Technology 
    Some historians trace drones back to the mid-1800’s when European armies used unmanned balloon aircraft to deliver bombs. The invention of the fixed-wing aircraft in 1903 spurred a generation of drones. In 1917, during the First World War, the US developed drone weapons. These innovative weapons were not deployed prior to the end of the war in 1918.Drones emerged in the modern era in WWII as surveillance craft. In the post-WW II years, the cold war increased the use of unmanned systems. The US and the USSR used drones extensively for spying and surveillance. The modern military usage of drones took off after the Israel Air Force used drones in its stunning defeat of the Syrian Army in 1982. Used equally as a weapon, reconnaissance tool, and decoy, the Israeli prototype tactics integrated drones into a modern battlefield scenario. The lesson inspired the US and other military powers to invest heavily in drone research and development.

    The US began an extensive development of military drones in the early 1980’s. In a process that culminated with the Predator MQ-10 drone system, the US gradually added systems, weapons, and sophisticated precision controls to its drone arsenal. Drone systems emerged as a favored way of delivering a precision strike with some human control over the event at the point of contact. Today, drones have a central role in the US military arsenal. Drones have proven effective and reliable across a wide range of climates, terrains, and battlefield environments.

    2. Commercial History of Drone Technology 
    Military advances have fed a continuous line of civilian and commercial applications. Military usage of drones included surveillance of territory and reconnaissance to locate enemy positions and troop movements. In the civilian sector, public and private organizations followed the military example. For example, government agencies used drones for border surveillance, and private businesses used them for security systems, inspections, and aerial surveillance.

    – Evolution of Drone Information Technology
    There have been at least five significant stages within the evolution of commercial drone technology. In a fundamental sense, the challenges began with the ability to fly drones reliably and regularly as needed. The gradual evolution resulted in industry-wide and business-specific solutions that contribute to organizational goals. The drone industry achieved basic elements of flight, reliability, and equipment in the early stages of growth. The advanced stages came later and continued the leading edge of research and development today.

    – Stage One- Development of reliable controls and stable flight capability
    This stage was the threshold for commercial drone utilization. The systems became reliable tools and predictable systems. The commercial use price points emerged at a level that businesses could buy and deploy systems in large volumes. Automation added simplicity to drone operation as many onboard systems were automated by advancing technology. The net result was drone systems that were easier to operate and available to a larger group of trained pilots.

    Stage Two- Upgrades for Onboard Cameras and Sensors
    Improvements in cameras and sensors produced reliable imagery and reports. The reliability of the drone system ensured the accuracy of the data collected and that the system could duplicate its procedures exactly. Data processing went to desktop level, and employees could perform tasks routinely with automated systems and enterprise software. At this scale of accuracy and productivity, firms began to assign functions to drones such as rooftop inspections and aerial surveys.

    Stage Three- Scalability of Drone Usage
    A constant challenge of incorporating drones into a business routine is in reaching the desired scale with accuracy and precision. Drones must not only test successfully, but they also must go into real-time usage at the rate and level of action needed by the organization.

    Stage Four- Data Management and Machine Learning
    Regular use of drones in essential functions produces data compilations. These continue to a point beyond the level of efficient human processing. Firms must integrate database management into the drone data collection systems. As the databases become large and complex, firms turn to machine learning to optimize usage of the data. Utilizing machine learning algorithms, the machine begins to signal changes, spot defects, identify patterns, and indicate trends.

    Stage Five- Drone Systems Integration
    Drone functions and data blend seamlessly into the overall business design for data collection, analysis, and application. Rather than becoming routine, drone analytics open new vistas for drone data and drone device innovations. For example, mining and quarry operations might add toxic fume detectors to an inspection routine so that drones can participate in programs that protect workers.

    Companies can drill-down into drone data and discover unexpected use cases. Companies can develop enterprise software based on the specific needs and tasks needed for their business.

    3. The Modern Era of Drone Regulation 
    According to The Drone Enthusiast, in 2006 the FAA began a search for rules and systems that could make drones safe and practical for recreational and commercial usage. The issues included possible interference in the US commercial airspace, safety, and risks of operations near or above civilian populations.

    The FAA issued the initial commercial drone permit in 2006; this was the first year in which the FAA issued a commercial drone permit. Over the next eight years, the agency averaged two permits per year, and that equaled the number of requests.

    In 2013, Amazon announced a plan to develop a drone-based delivery system. The Amazon announcement came as many companies had also begun using or experimenting with drones. The trends generated high levels of interest in drone operations, education, training, and commercial drone courses. As proof of the high level of interest, the FAA issued 1000 drone permits in 2015. The permit rate increased further to 3,100 in the calendar year 2016. The permit request rate continued to grow to the present day.

    The year 2006 was important in the history of civilian drone use. Some federal agencies initiated drone systems for assistance in disaster relief, border enforcement, and fighting forest fires. Private corporations began using drones for essential tasks and functions such as federally mandated pipeline inspections, and to apply pesticides on crops. As unmanned aerial vehicle technology improved in the military sector, those same technological improvements would be used in the private sector.

    – Future of Unmanned Aerial and Ground System
    There are few certainties about the future of a complex industry such as UAVs, but some current research and commercial activity at drone testing sites indicate some likely future directions. Trends indicate an expansion of drone use and drone use cases. There will be a greater demand for trained and certified operators, through commercial drone courses and practical training. The future of drone usage and drone technology will likely include the below-listed areas.

    • Emergency response
    • Detailed and technical inspections
    • Hazardous duties
    • Commercial deliveries
    • Commercial passenger transport and personal transportation

    4. NIAS – Our History Promoting Growth of the Drone Industry

    NIAS managed the Nevada effort to compete for and obtain a federal designation as one of the six FAA test sites. The goals of the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems include promoting the growth of drone technology, supporting drone technology innovation, and encouraging a business environment to strengthen existing businesses and promote startups. NIAS activities include assessing and removing barriers to entry in the UAS marketplace, and contributions to the national effort to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the National Air Space. Some representative NIAS projects include the below-listed items.

    • UAS Traffic Management research for safety and traffic control systems.
    • National Airspace Management research provides critical input for FAA and NASA to support legislation and future regulations.
    • Research and Development efforts including urban environments, wildlife management, and drought mitigation. Developments include innovations for inspection routines for power lines, rail lines, quarries, and mines.
    • Consultation and outreach are crucial parts of the NIAS mission. NIAS promotes organizational structures in Nevada and across the US for groups that engage in aerial of ground drone vehicle operations. By creating public awareness as well as enhancing expertise, NIAS plays a pivotal role in the development of the UAS/UGV industry.

    The NIAS is a leading advocate for drone technology, safety, and innovation. Its work impacts Nevada and contributes to the national effort to expand the commercial use of the National Air Space.

    1. 10 Things You May Not Know About the Wright Brothers
    2. About the NIAS
    3. Eight Stages of the Commercial Drone Technology Evolution
    4. The History Of Drone Technology
    5.The History Of Drones (Drone History Timeline From 1849 To 2018)