Welcome to STEMinism Sunday! As a former woman in science, I have a deep and enduring interest in the experiences and representation of women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). This series will be an opportunity for me – and you – to learn more about these intellectual badasses. Today, we have the first of two guest posts from Nidhi Kamra.
That’s probably one of the most echoed words in the world during the Covid-19 crisis. And whether you are 9 or 99, it’s a word you won’t forget.
I bet you missed that hot gooey chocolate fudge on cold vanilla ice cream sticking to your teeth, your straw buzzing while savouring that last drop of a refreshing mango smoothie, or slurping those flavourful noodles from your favourite restaurant.
Didn’t you wish those delicious foods would magically drop down from the heavens?
Your wish will soon be a reality faster than you think.
It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s a UA What?
A UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), or RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System), or the pop-culture word, “drone,” is an aircraft that does not have a pilot, can be controlled remotely (remote control, phone app, a more complex ground station room etc.), can carry a payload (think pizza, camera …), and flies using the principles of aerodynamics.
In this post, we’ll talk about drones in different industries, types of drones, launch and recovery, policies, and how you can be a responsible citizen if you own a drone. There are lots of videos mentioned to keep you entertained as well.
I promise it won’t go over your head. No pun intended.
Pies in the Sky, Pigs That Fly, and Hollywood
Drones are making their way into many industries, including delivering your favorite foods. Here are some examples of industries that are being disrupted and propelled forward, thanks to drones.
Big and small companies are assessing drone delivery methods because they are quick (avoid traffic) and cheaper (low shipping costs). Deliveries can range from apple pies, pizza, pork chops, clothes, express parcels, medicines, organs, blood … Use your imagination.
Wing, a company owned by Google, is testing delivering a hot cup of coffee to residents in Canberra, Australia. The drone hovers over the residence, and lowers the goodies down via a string.
Another company, Zipline, is delivering blood. The drone saved a little girl’s life in Rwanda when it dropped off a parachute containing cold, refrigerated blood, ready to be pumped via IV in minutes. It can take hours or days for blood and medicines to be delivered to distant villages with dirt roads and no infrastructure. Drone companies are seeing an opportunity and providing quick “last-mile” much needed services.
Security, Emergency Services, Search and Rescue:
Let’s think Hollywood for a second. A bank’s been robbed and the fugitive is on the run.
Police cars. Hot pursuit. Sirens. Screeching. Wrong side of the highway. Car crashes. Explosions.
You get the picture. In the real world, this dangerous ordeal can be avoided if law enforcement deploys a drone to follow the fugitive. Drones equipped with day or night vision infrared cameras and GPS can fly at high speeds above ground (avoiding accidents and casualties), and provide real time data, like location, licence plate number etc. Similarly, drones are a perfect choice for border security, searching for wild fires, crime scenes, accidents, traffic congestions etc. Some of the bigger drones can even rescue people. Hey – and even if it’s Hollywood, shooting a movie scene using a drone equipped with a high quality camera is cheaper — you don’t need to rent a helicopter for aerial shots. It renders better shots as the drone keeps the camera stable and captures tricky angles. Drones can squeeze into tight spaces like tunnels, and are great for documentaries! Watch a drone follow a rally car here:
Drones are growing in popularity in surveying infrastructure, railroads, forests, pipelines, geological features like volcanoes, oceans etc. The drones carry cameras and / or sensors that can take regular colour pictures or more sophisticated images used to generate 3D models of the area and provide detailed information.
Pipeline monitoring for oil or saltwater leaks is a cumbersome, time-consuming task, considering pipelines can stretch for thousands of kilometers. Many times, the pipelines are in remote places and dangerous to access. Leaks from corrosion of pipelines are hazardous to the environment, properties, farms, oceans etc. and can take many years plus hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. Drones allow for proactive and frequent monitoring of pipelines, preventing damages and high repair costs.
Scientists are deploying drones to study volcanoes as traversing the volcanic landscape is risky business for humans. Some ways a potential earthquake can be detected are by monitoring changes in composition of gases like carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide in the volcanic plume, ground swelling and cracking, steaming in vents, changes to plant life etc. A drone can employ gas detection sensors and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors to perform some of the monitoring tasks accurately, potentially saving millions of lives. Watch a small documentary on measuring volcanic emissions with drones here: