It feels like every time we blink another use has been pioneered for drone technology. Owing to their speed, low operating cost and data capture capabilities, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used to film, photograph, survey, inspect and map areas and situations across a range of different industries, including mining, construction, civil engineering, oil and gas operations, media and entertainment.
And now, they’re being put to work by organisations invested in environmental sustainability, too. That’s right, drones are now also helping to save the planet. How, you might be wondering? We’ve outlined a few ways that these ‘eyes in the sky’ are being used to bolster green initiatives in the fields of renewable energy, nature conservation, air quality control and agriculture below.
Four ways drones are helping to protect the planet
1.Solar farm and wind turbine inspections
It didn’t take long for those involved in the renewable energy sector to cotton on to the many benefits if drone technology when it comes to the maintenance of solar and wind farms. UAVs fitted with thermal imaging cameras can be flown over extensive farm areas to identify problematic solar panels based on infrared radiation patterns, removing the need for engineers to manually inspect units. Similarly, the manual inspection of wind turbine power cables and blades is rendered unnecessary by drones, which use 3D imaging and real-time videos to send back critical information about the state of these structures so that sound maintenance decisions can be made.
2. Nature and wildlife conservation
Drones have already been used to track rhino poachers and whale hunters, to limit the impact of forest fires and to monitor melting ice in the Arctic. Because they can be flown at fairly low altitudes over huge stretches of otherwise inaccessible land (think uninhabited rainforests and vast deserts), UAVs are the ultimate tool for monitoring species’ whereabouts and movements and for assessing issues, like deforestation, that pose a direct threat to our planet’s natural resources. With the crystal-clear images and detailed maps that drones generate, pilots are able to obtain data that informs both significant scientific research and critical conservation efforts.
3. Air quality control
Yet another eco-focused use of drones involves the monitoring of gases and emissions in the air. Using advanced sensors, UAVs are equipped to map air quality over areas of interest and detect pollution far more accurately than the technology that’s historically been used for emissions control. It goes without saying, this sort of data can go a long way towards helping regulate industrial activities that negatively impact the environment. What’s more, drone technology is now also capable of picking up methane gas and other leaks at mining sites and detecting air pollutants that don’t just wreak havoc on the environment, but can lead to poisoning and explosions, too.
4. Precision agriculture and resource optimisation
Aside from their crop mapping and plant health monitoring applications in the world of agriculture, drones also help to make farming a much more resource-efficient endeavour. As they use no fuel and tread very lightly (or rather, not at all) on the earth, UAVs help to reduce farming’s carbon footprint and the negative impact it can potentially have on the surrounding landscape. And because drones allow for new, far more precise ways of spraying crops based on needs assessments, they assist with lowering the amount of fertilizer that’s released into the air by up to 20%. UAVs can even help to minimise water wastage in agriculture by using thermal cameras to detect which areas of land require more or less irrigation.
Passionate about environmental sustainability? Find out more about how drones can be put to use in this field by connecting with us. At DC Geomatics, we offer a wide range of both commercial and turnkey drone services to an assortment of different industries, and because safety and compliance are of the utmost importance to us, we are licensed, insured and approved by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).