Drone operated services: The rise of state of the art, flexible platforms

From agriculture and telecommunications, to mining and transportation, the potential of drone services and applications is rapidly rising in industries around the globe. However, not all potential drone users are able to fly their own drones. Drone services operators are making the most of the gap between authorised drone users and those that want to use drones and their data, offering services such as leasing out drones, drone pilots and autonomous drone operators, as well as analysing drone data.

Clients choose to outsource drone services rather than flying their own drones so that the service provider carries out all of the drone related activities, such as drone flight, maintenance and data processing. Also, there is no need to train or employ a licensed pilot on the team. This allows the client to focus on their given applications.

Flexible Platforms

With the increasing popularity of the drone services model, service providers are required to maintain a flexible platform for different tasks to be conducted with the same drone. Such tasks include delivering medical supplies to remote regions or taking a topographic survey to aid construction developments. Remote sensing applications and aerial photography are particularly popular with drone service users, due to the ability of drones to quickly and efficiently collect high resolution data over large areas. Drone service users within industries such as oil and gas, agriculture and logistics are opting for the option of drone services, to reduce the cost of labour and increase efficiency. Other services include fleet management on behalf of the clients, and data transfer, storage and management.

State of the Art Communication

In order for drone service providers to meet the needs of their clients, they must have a platform that is flexible enough to support different types of payloads using the same platform, in turn to support the different requirements of their customers. Furthermore, they must have a platform with robust and secure communication through any environmental condition, especially when multiple systems are operating in the same area.  Finally, employing a portfolio of capabilities within the communication system that is integrated on both the ground station and platform will enable a variety of applications to be supported.

In terms of communication, drone services providers that offer long range and non-line of sight (NLOS) communication can cater to clients that require applications such as video surveillance and data acquisition over difficult and dangerous areas. Furthermore, using relay systems increases communication over mountainous terrain or urban areas, allowing drone services to be utilized in both built-up cities or in remote regions, for example, for the delivery of consumer goods and medical supplies. In addition to the above-mentioned communication features, drone services that offer secure and robust links that avoid the stealing of personal and private information provide a secure and reliable service for drone service clients.  Such a private network is less vulnerable to hacking and other cyber-attacks compared to Wi-Fi radio connections, and ultimately offers clients a secure, trusted network, particularly important for the handling of sensitive data.

Lastly, many potential drone clients require the use of drones in extreme conditions. Offering drone services that can operate in harsh environmental conditions attracts clients that require a more resistant drone, such as oil and gas pipeline monitoring or monitoring the health of wind turbines.

The drone service industry is projected to carry on growing in the future, propelling the scalability of the drone industry. As drones move from innovation and testing to mainstream and everyday usage, the drone service market will need to produce adaptable, robust drone platforms and applications that meet the diverse needs of its clients.

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