Commercial Drones: What You Need to Know

Drones are very fun to use and fly in your garden, but you might not know that they are becoming increasingly popular amongst the business community.

Businesses are now starting to use them to deliver food and packages, provide unique digital mapping and offer new ways to conduct surveillance. They’ve become so popular that just recently, the US government has agreed to let Apple, Intel, Microsoft and Uber test and find ways of making commercial drone usage, on a much wider scale, work. The result could be an entirely new way of having your purchases and mail delivered.

How will this be done?

In many countries, commercial drones will use cellular networks to connect to Unmanned Traffic Management platforms on the ground. In order to ensure drone control and safe flights, these UTM platforms can be managed by drone operators, under the supervision of governments or by the civil aviation and​ will help manage traffic at low altitudes.

On top of this however, businesses will need to follow strict regulations to ensure public safety. Across America and Europe these regulations tend to differ slightly, but the standard operating framework outlines that commercial drones:

  • Must weigh less than 55 pounds, including payload, at take-off
  • Must be flown in Class G airspace
  • Must always be flown within visual line-of-sight
  • Must be flown during daylight or civil twilight
  • Cannot exceed 100mph
  • Cannot be flown over airports, stadiums or other large public areas

Which benefits will I see?

The benefits of commercial drones will span industries, improving our efficiency and productivity at work. For instance, society will notice the benefits in:

  • Delivery – Major retailers such as Microsoft, Intel, Amazon and Apple see lots of potential in drone delivery for small packages over short distances. This would cut transport costs and increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system.
  • Agriculture – Drones offer a cost-effective way to monitor crops to improve management and yields. Drone cameras and infrared sensors can evaluate crop health, allowing farmers to respond with fertilizer or insecticide treatments.
  • Energy – Drones can provide high-quality, real-time visual inspection and thermal readings of power lines, oil and gas pipelines, transmission towers, solar arrays, wind turbines and nuclear installations, allowing inspection teams to remain at a safe distance.
  • Construction – Drones can provide high-quality, real-time visual inspection of all types of construction including buildings and bridges, keeping inspection teams safe. In addition to this, small drones that can access tricky areas can provide a new level of detail to improve performance.
  • Public safety – Public safety drones can provide an aerial view to rescue operations, so teams can quickly and safely evaluate emergency situations. They are invaluable for search and rescue teams, firefighting, disaster response efforts, and law enforcement.

What about data privacy – how secure are drones?

As drones begin to be used for commercial purposes, there is always a danger that hackers will find ways to steal their data or hijack their flight path. Unfortunately, this has happened in the past and as much as any computer, drones are susceptible to hacking. However, just as the everyday consumer is aware of the need to install anti-virus programs on their computer, businesses will understand that they must protect their commercial drones against potential threats. Luckily, many will be aware of security solutions which will protect the entire drone eco-system from attack -from registration to data protection and exchange. The below infographic explains each step in the drone ecosystem which security solutions can protect against.

Therefore, while there is always a danger that commercial drones could be hijacked, there are security solutions in place to stop this from happening.

It’s a very exciting time for drone technology and there are so many benefits to society as a whole. But businesses need to remain aware of the risks and ensure that the appropriate security framework is in place. If they do, maybe you’ll be ordering through drone delivery very soon…