I am so fascinated about drones and just love the dynamics of these small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAV) especially the small ones like the Phantom that is capable of carryout 3D mapping, to forensics inspections and precision agriculture. For this week’s reflection, for the past week and a half I’ve been on an online safari to understand the impact of this innovative technology on business. What follows in my discussion is what I think will be the largest impact that drones will bring.
Firstly before I continue it must be understood that when we look at the big picture you will find that drone hardware is already a commodity and question that comes from this is how much one is willing to spend on a drone. Secondly, even though the interaction between user and drone is meditated by software this is also fast becoming commoditized which leaves us with one question where is the greater value in all this?
The greater value in all this is in the data that is captured. Since small drones have the capability of flying at very low altitude the capture good precision images they are excellent data capture vehicles. Currently, it is very economical to fly a cheap drone to cover a large area of land than to do so with a vehicle and a team of surveyors. We must be also mindful that the process of digital photography/or video is a complex process that involves converting visual light to binary numeric representation as a two dimensional image. Now in this day and age where cameras become more resolute, the amount of images captured increases and so does the potential value of this images such as those produced from a high value satellite. However, the same can be produced today with a consumer camera mounted on with an off the shelf software on a laptop. The twist to it is that, the software can build textured 3D representations from still images. And when it’s an infrared camera being used, the images produced are even more valuable because not only is difference in heat produced but also the opportunity of measuring those differences.
So, say if we apply this to agriculture, especially in the big Sugar Cane farms in Queensland imagine the amount of data that will come from it. Already predictions from Kansas State University state high spending on UVS in agriculture with the industry to be worth around a staggering US$100 billion by 2025. Currently, applications of drones in agriculture being developed are in the areas of data collection in plant health, pests monitoring etc. Field images captured from drones by far are much more accurate than satellites or planes. Since drones are agile and can be used anytime to produce results, farmers can deploy them at any time and numerously to identify anomalies. Such valuable information gathered will certainly improve productivity.
However, having access to this technology doesn’t necessarily make any farmer an image specialist. Using the drone to collect images is only the tip of the ice berg to the data collecting process. Images need to undergo certain procedures before they can be used. For precision agriculture data quality is crucial in getting value out of the images. Cloud based application like the PrecisionMapper assist in this area by enable users to upload there images and have it stored, processed and shared in a secure and legitimate environment.
Overtime, we will see this large scale collection of data will enable service providers to process exceptional levels of detail data that can aid farmers immensely in their crop yielding. This is exactly what the owners of PrecisionMapping are aiming for in developing their model to bring out in the near future. What can be predicted from this is that drones will serve as stimulate for creating cloud based service providers who will be competing based on speed and prominence of their visions. This will see drones harvesting big data and from this will come the rise of cloud base computing.