The Impact of Drone Technology & Use Cases

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The Impact of Drone Technology & Use Cases
Illustration: © IoT For All

The availability of 5G technology is accelerating across the globe, enabling new and exciting technologies that will transform communities large and small. One of the technologies that are making an impact across many industries is drone technology. Before diving into the ways that drones are making the world a better place, it is important to understand the benefits of 5G compared to existing cellular technology.

Benefits of 5G Networks

  • Higher Bandwidth: 5G is capable of delivering data rates of 20gbps, whereas current averages sit at around 100mbps. 
  • Greater Capacity: 5G networks can support one million IoT-connected devices per square kilometer, compared to 4,000 devices on 4G/LTE. This makes 5G optimal for large-scale industrial and manufacturing applications where many complex machines are operating in a small area. 
  • Lower Latency: Lower latency and high data transmission speeds make a huge difference when it comes to use cases such as mobility, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), broadcasting live events, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). 
  • Better Spectrum Use: Within the world of 5G, high-band spectrum (i.e., mmWave) is particularly important for bridging critical communications infrastructure and enabling ground-breaking connected technologies. 

While countless applications will reap the benefits of these lightning-fast, low-latency networks, drone technology is poised to be one of the major beneficiaries of 5G availability.  

The Drone Revolution

The adoption of 5G has and will continue to enable drone technologies across various industries including last mile delivery, logistics, retail, agriculture, and healthcare. Beyond business and consumer applications, drones are being leveraged in many other ways by the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and emergency services. Whether they are used for search and rescue missions, delivering medical supplies or food, fighting wildfires, or assisting with crop management, drones have become a critical means of supporting communities and businesses across the globe.  

What is Last Mile Delivery?

Last mile delivery can be defined as the movement of goods from a transportation hub to the final delivery destination. In other words, the “last mile” of delivery is the final step of the supply chain process, in which the package is delivered to the buyer’s doorstep. So, why are companies using drones for last mile delivery? Last mile delivery can often be considered the most complicated, challenging, and expensive process of a supply chain.  

Consumers have increasingly turned to e-commerce for all their shopping needs, speedy fulfillment, and increasingly fast delivery of these goods and services. This is not just nice to have – it has become an expectation. On top of this, the continued growth of traffic loads on roads, due to the steady increase in the global population, creates major obstacles when it comes to successfully delivering goods and services to customers, especially in rural or hard-to-reach areas. As a result, companies across many industries realize that they need to adopt and invest in drone technology to expedite deliveries, access hard-to-reach locations, meet customer expectations, and also cut supply chain costs. Let’s take a look at some of the other ways drones are being used across different industries.

Drone Technology Use Cases  

#1: Agriculture & Farming 

Drones are one of the main technologies driving “precision agriculture,” which is the science of improving productivity, efficiency, crop yield, and profitability through the use of technology. That being said, drone technology in agriculture and farming industries is an emerging trend, as its benefits enable farmers to:  

  • Optimize workflow  
  • Utilize resources more efficiently 
  • Reduce operation costs 
  • Improve productivity 
  • Improve crop quality 
  • Increase yield rate 
  • Detect problems early 
  • Make informative decisions 

While drones have a wide range of uses in agriculture such as crop monitoring, planting seeds, field mapping, spraying pesticides, and more, their main uses today are focused on acquiring highly-detailed data around crop health, soil health, and detecting diseases through the use of different sensors. Not only does this powerful data allow farmers to access the health level of their crops and see where action may need to be taken in order to improve crop quality, but drones also help them quickly identify and detect problems early on. Not having the insightful data and information needed can lead to huge losses if issues aren’t detected early enough. Given that many of these drone operations are automated through intelligent flight modes, they also reduce the amount of time spent out on the field, thus reducing labor and equipment costs.  

#2: State & Local Government 

The emergence of drones has the potential to revolutionize various industries and city services, as they can provide significant benefits to state and local governments across the U.S., including law enforcement support, border surveillance, fighting wildfires, conducting inspections, environmental monitoring, and disaster management. Drones also have many uses when it comes to supporting the Department of Defense, and companies are helping the U.S. Army complete short-range reconnaissance missions. Drones have very quickly democratized access to aerial security and surveillance in the military as they are smaller, can cover a large number of areas quickly, and are much more efficient than manned aircraft such as helicopters.

When it comes to disaster management, drones are used to detect and monitor wildfires. By providing real-time data on the topography of an area, visual pictures and videos, heat signatures, and fire hotspots, drones can help firefighters and first responders leverage this data to make intelligent decisions and help limit the impact of environmental disasters. Drones are also revolutionizing firefighter safety, as they can inform which direction a crew should move and where it is safe to go, thus keeping firefighters safe and out of dangerous areas. State and local governments also have the opportunity to utilize drones for surveillance purposes, to enhance city services, as well as to increase the protection and safety of residents within cities.

#3: Medical & Healthcare 

Drones have become an emerging technology for medical providers across the world for both emergency and non-emergency purposes. Medical drones enable healthcare providers to transport medical devices and materials and have touchless interaction with patients, reducing the spread of infectious diseases. Healthcare providers can also utilize drones to deliver essential items such as diagnostic tests, medicine, spread and transmit vaccines, and enable at-home healthcare. Drones allow safe, easy, and efficient access to places that are hard to reach or unsafe to reach through traditional delivery methods. Given that drones are much faster and safer than traditional transportation, they improve the odds of getting critical deliveries to their final destinations in a timely manner.

With an intended start date of 2024, the MultiCare Health Care System in Washington will begin utilizing drones for instant delivery to service facilities, delivering a wide range of medical supplies such as lab samples, medications, and test kits to establish a faster, on-demand delivery model and improved patient experience. Deliveries by drones will help doctors create a better experience for their patients by reducing delivery delays and stress.  

The Need for Connectivity

You don’t need to look much further than Sigfox’s bankruptcy or Rogers’s massive network outage this year to be reminded that being locked into a single networking technology can have devastating implications for mission-critical IoT devices. A single point of network failure is a major risk that businesses don’t often appreciate until they’re faced with a network outage or sunset. When it comes to autonomous drones, they need to stay connected at all times – they simply cannot operate without highly reliable networks. One solution is with eSIM technology that gives drone operators programmatic control over which networks their drones connect to. A true eSIM platform is your direct link to enroll devices and connect directly to the best 5G networks worldwide.