Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles, that is, aircraft without a pilot on board. They are usually remotely controlled, however autonomous drones are in advanced stages of development.
Its origin is military, although, currently, they are used for recreational purposes and more recently for industrial purposes. The use of drones in industry is a fact and is applied in many sectors since they greatly facilitate supervision, review of infrastructures and even transport.
Drones are already part of Industry 4.0 and are considered an improvement for industrial processes since they allow automating tasks that were not possible before, reducing their risk to a great extent.
Types of drones for the industrial sector
We can classify drones according to the type and number of wings that compose them:
- Fixed wing drones. These drones have two wings and glide through the air. They offer more autonomy since they are very aerodynamic and are perfect for covering large areas. Its main disadvantage is that the landing and take-off is not vertical and an extension of approximately 60 meters without obstacles is needed to be able to do it successfully.
- Multirotor drones. They are the most common and have between 2 and 8 multirotors. They land and take off vertically so they can do so from virtually anywhere. They are simple to pilot and also very versatile. There are different configurations depending on the number of motors and the configuration of the arms. The main disadvantage they present is their autonomy since it is quite limited.
- Helicopter drones. They are very versatile and have great autonomy and load capacity. They are much more efficient aerodynamically speaking than multirotors. On the contrary, they are very complex mechanically and very difficult to pilot correctly.
Use of industrial drones
Drones are used for inspection and supervision tasks, which makes it necessary to incorporate cameras so that, while they are moving, they can capture images. These images can be of different types and that depends on the sensor they have incorporated. We can distinguish the following types of sensors:
- RGB sensors. They are the usual cameras, like the one we can have on our mobile phone. They return two-dimensional color images. These sensors are cheap and fast. The images can be viewed in real time or retrospectively. They are used for visual inspection tasks to review the status of certain structures, areas, elements, etc. Subsequently, by treating the images captured with algorithms (either with or without Machine Learning), analysis, classifications, counting and a long etcetera can be carried out.
- Thermal sensors. Thermal imaging cameras allow you to determine the temperature at a great distance and with great accuracy without the need for contact with the object. It allows to know the thermal state of buildings, fields, etc. Leaks and possible actuation points can also be detected. It can be used in electrical towers, moisture detection, review of wind turbines or solar panels, review of energy efficiency of buildings among others
- Other sensors. Other types of sensors such as hyperspectral cameras for the agricultural sector can be integrated into the drones, which will allow determining the status of the plantations. Lidar sensors, CO2 or H2O detectors and ultrasounds among others.
Drone applications in the industrial world
As you have seen, drones have many possibilities and many possible configurations that are perfectly adapted to various industrial sectors. The use of drones can bring a series of benefits and in the future it will still be possible to get more performance from these devices thanks to the constant improvement of technology. Among other benefits that drones can provide in Industry 4.0 we find:
- Reduce inspection time in large areas.
- Inspect dangerous or inaccessible places for people.
- Reduce risk in hazardous operations.
- Automation of tasks that until now was not possible.
- Reduce costs in the travel of human teams.
- Improve processes thanks to the monitoring that drones can perform.
- Classification of elements and surfaces
Drones can be used for many applications and many companies in any sector are developing drone projects. A bet in which many trust for the transformation towards a smarter industry. We will tell you some possible applications below.
- Drones for industrial inspections: Gifts are very valuable to inspect large, dangerous or difficult to access areas. They allow you to analyze industrial infrastructures in detail and also electrical networks or communication towers, which means a very large risk reduction. Previous inspections of the terrain and the evolution of an architectural work can be carried out. Drones are used to take aerial images of all kinds and thus determine the earthly impact, have accurate information, etc.
- Drones in logistics. The logistics sector is another in which projects are being developed for the implementation and use of drones. More and more companies are developing projects with drones. For example, they can be used in warehouse management or carrying out transport and delivery of packages within the warehouse. Large companies such as Amazon or Google have their own projects for the management and delivery of packages using drones, even for home delivery. You can also find another example in this post that we present about the modular assembly by Audi in its factory in Ingolstadt.
- 3D mapping and topography. Drones can be used to create 3D maps or topographic maps. This capacity makes them very useful for sectors such as construction, mining or agriculture. Drones allow large areas to be seen from a “bird’s eye view”, so these maps can be made more efficiently than on foot or by tractor.
- Precision farming. Drones are also used in the agricultural sector for different applications since, depending on the type of camera they integrate, they can be used to tackle different tasks. Cameras built into drones can measure different parameters over large areas of land. With thermographic cameras it is possible to detect the increase in temperature of the plants that will mean the lack of water and therefore water stress. With this information, the irrigation of farms can be optimized, which is known as precision irrigation.
Multispectral images allow us to know the health and well-being of plants and vegetation, therefore they can be used to track fruit ripening or to detect diseases.
A drone can travel a plantation in a short time applying treatments, sprays etc. efficiently and minimizing environmental impact.
Finally, drones have applications in the livestock sector, for example, for monitoring livestock. The images captured from the air allow to count the animals, take their temperature and help in the search for lost animals in large areas.
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