As technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) become more popular, it can be easy to forget these devices are intended to promote innovative thinking. After all, once businesses discover a few standard uses, other organisations often lose sight of new ways to use the technology.
In Australia, many industries are employing UAVs in a range of applications. For example, mining companies are using drones equipped with cameras to survey stock piles, and farmers are using them to spray chemicals from higher vantage points.
However, the University of Maryland's (UMD's) Robert H. Smith School of Business found there are plenty of other options, from animal conservation to facility security.
Embrace the unknown with UAVs
At its core, a UAV is simply a small remote controlled aircraft that can be augmented with different gadgets. This is all businesses need to know to start thinking of new ways to use the technology, as is evidenced by UMD's list of innovative UAV uses.
The university noted the technology's potential to assist with wildlife conservation due to the different cameras and scanners people can attach to them.
The Queensland University of Technology is currently using UAVs to monitor koala populations. To do this, researchers attach thermal imaging equipment to the devices, making it much faster to account for the animals in their care than if they had to count them by sight alone.
According to Project leader Dr Felipe Gonzalez, there's more to the technology than just counting koalas.
"This dynamic combination of expertise and technology opens up many exciting possibilities in wildlife conservation of vulnerable or endangered species, as well as invasive species' populations," he explained.
Can UAVs create safer environments?
UAVs can encourage more than just innovation, with some businesses using them to create safer work practices while allowing them to work more efficiently. Many utility companies have started to investigate power line inspections with UAVs, a procedure that's much safer than having people hoist themselves up.
There are other uses for UAVs which promote safety, including having them replace or support security guards who patrol designated areas. By equipping these devices with cameras, any suspicious activity the UAV records is ready to be presented as evidence.