Drones: 10 Novel Uses For Your City - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Government // Mobile & Wireless
News
7/23/2015
07:05 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
Slideshows
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Drones: 10 Novel Uses For Your City

Drones are becoming more than mere law enforcement adjuncts, as cities find new ways to save money and even raise revenue with the unmanned aerial vehicles.
Previous
1 of 12
Next

(Image: ivansmuk/iStockphoto)

(Image: ivansmuk/iStockphoto)

Drones have a pretty bad name.

They're mostly thought of as killing machines or privacy invaders. Many of us envision a world with millions of them buzzing through the skies, causing constant noise, or with drones falling from the sky like hail and crashing around us.

But drones are also cheap and incredibly useful tools. Because FAA regulations still limit who can use them, "drones-as-a-service" will remain relatively rare, for now. But state and local governments have started seeing the potential.

The obvious first potential is in police work. Everyone sees the killer drone as the extension of the SWAT team or the bomb squad. That’s all well and good, but for drones to get out of the Hollywood-created perception that they are killing machines we need some other uses for them.

Drones are cheap. Police in Tennessee estimate they can run a drone for $3.80 per hour, compared to a helicopter, which costs $600 per hour. Because of the relative cheapness, there is no reason to restrict the drone's role to that of extension of the police. We found 10 cities around the world that are using drones for other situations.

[Want to learn more about drones? Here's a look.]

Some are still related to emergency services. Some are probably a little frightening. A fair number could be money-makers for governments. But all have a money-saving component. In the right environment, a drone can save governments money and do a job better than traditional assets.

One recent example happened after an earthquake in Washington, D.C. Instead of using drones, human teams rappelled down the side of the Washington Monument to check it for cracks. The same service could have been performed faster, cheaper, and safer by drones.

Hopefully, these 10 use-cases can inspire cities to be more creative with drones. Check them out, and tell us which you think more cities should be trying.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 12
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/27/2015 | 1:22:15 PM
Re: Call me a skeptic
@yalanand- I think the problem with street cleaning is having access to water or carrying heavy blowers around on an affordable drone. There's a reason no one cleans city streets with a helicopter, right?
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/27/2015 | 1:17:29 PM
Re: Call me a skeptic
@nasimon- Well, even if we do see drones cleaning buildings, this list was more on what cities were doing and since cities own few skyscrapers, they are less likely to take advantage. Maybe I'll do a followup on commercial uses for drones that looks into use cases like that.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/27/2015 | 1:09:21 PM
Re: Call me a skeptic
@progman2000- Right, I'm of two minds about arming a drone (even with pepper spray) for law enforcement. With all the trouble we have with police shooting unarmed people, I'm not thrilled about a drone possibly doing it. On the other hand, drones don't get nervous. They don't have racial or gender bias. They have sensors that are better than the eye. They don't fear for their lives. It is possible that a drone will make better decisions than a person on when to fire.
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Author
7/23/2015 | 2:59:26 PM
Re: Call me a skeptic
@David I love the idea of self-cleaning glass. I'd also love a self-cleaning floor, counter top, etc. 
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/23/2015 | 2:56:26 PM
Re: Call me a skeptic
@ariella- I suspect that would be a relatively easy concept, but I think by the time that can be done safely, skyscrapers will be build mostly with self-cleaning glass: http://phys.org/news/2011-12-glass.html

 
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Author
7/23/2015 | 2:54:38 PM
Re: Call me a skeptic
But will they do windows? Seriously, can a drone be designed to clean windows on skyscrapers so that window washers don't have to go up high to do it?
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/23/2015 | 2:41:36 PM
Re: Call me a skeptic
@stratustician- Right, economies of scale are important for the tech. Though interestingly, scale for pilots might hurt costs. 

But here's a general thought on how to use them better I wish I had thought to include in the article. It was inspired by your comment. 

What drones allow us to do is work in 3 dimensions. Basically, people can only work safely in two dimension. They need bulky safety equipment to start working vertically. Drones won't take over all the work. But the might take over the 3D work.
David Wagner
50%
50%
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/23/2015 | 12:42:48 PM
Re: Call me a skeptic
@embeetee- I hear you. I'm sure that not all of these will work. I, for one, am worried about the lack of qualified pilots eventually making the whole thing really expensive.

But it seems clear to me that at least some of the early movers are doing some interesting things that are working. It seems fair with a new technology to let people try to do a lot of things with it and then hone in on what works. Personally, I expect soon that we'll see cities turn more to revenue makers like drone meter maids or speed traps or something.

But I think your basic premise is right-- not all of these will be as cheap as we hope.

Oh, by the way, the Predator has military level sensors on it. I can't explain the way they work. I assume magnetism or something, but we know they do work because they've been in use in Afghanistan and Iraq for some time.

The planting has been tested. It works more on a quantity rather than quality way. It drops tons of seedlings into an area knowing only some will take root.

But yes, not all of this will work or at the price we hope it will work.
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

Slideshows
10 Things Your Artificial Intelligence Initiative Needs to Succeed
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/20/2021
News
Tech Spending Climbs as Digital Business Initiatives Grow
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  4/22/2021
Commentary
Optimizing the CIO and CFO Relationship
Mary E. Shacklett, Technology commentator and President of Transworld Data,  4/13/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Planning Your Digital Transformation Roadmap
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
Slideshows
Flash Poll