> FOCUS BY JIM PHILLIPS
SO WHAT IS ALL THE BUZZ ABOUT DRONES? The buzz could be the drone itself, which
can sound like a swarm of bees flying overhead. However, the media buzz is more about
drones delivering pizza or your latest online order directly to your doorstep.
Although people are more familiar with the word “drone,”
the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses the term
“unmanned aircraft system” (UAS). The type of drone used
by hobbyists is referred to as a “small UAS” (sUAS). Their
origins can be traced back through many decades when
radio-controlled (RC), fixed-wing model airplanes were first
introduced. The multirotor version became available just a few
years ago, and almost immediately, it was being equipped with
cameras and adapted for commercial use.
Depending on the project, both fixed-wing and multirotor
drones can be used in commercial applications. The multirotor type is generally better suited for photography and video.
Fixed-wing drones have the ability to fly for longer periods
of time, so they are used where larger areas and distances
need to be covered.
According to an FAA forecast, the number of drones sold for
hobby use will more than double from 1. 9 million in 2016 to 4. 3
million in 2020. The number sold for commercial use will triple
over the same period from 600,000 to 2. 7 million.
Drones for commercial use
Brian Deatherage has been flying drones in commercial appli-
cations since 2008, long before the recent growth. He and his
business partner Mark Yori founded Phoenix Drone Services,
and like so many good startup stories, this one began as a hobby
in a garage almost 10 years ago.
Originally flying for fun, Deatherage was always developing creative modifications, such as extending the range and
the capabilities. It didn’t take long before he realized he could
equip his drones with cameras and other data-gathering
and inspection devices. This hobby soon turned into a business venture with a fleet that could be used for construction
inspections, 3-D mapping, utility infrastructure inspections,
thermography, volumetric mapping and much more.
Project and construction monitoring
Drones rigged with video equipment have simplified construction site monitoring and inspection. Progress photography
and video can be created by flying the exact same route using
autonomous control, which employs a preprogrammed flight
plan that captures the same view, elevation and angle each time
for a consistent record of the progress.
Project and construction managers can use photos and
video for tracking and monitoring site assets—such as construction equipment—and many other purposes, such as investor
information, marketing and advertising.
Buzz aboutDrones the Inside the rise of this high-flying technology