40 NEWEQUIPMENT.COM I NOVEMBER 2017
by John Hitch
1. INSPECTION: In a plant setting, you can program a
drone to fly a route for exterior facility inspection or general
security purposes, and return to you like a falcon. That’s
great if you are around to charge it and upload its video
data frequently. For stewards caring for hundreds of miles
of pipeline, this isn’t the best option. The Singapore-based
company, H3 Dynamics, has created a good one though,
called the DroneBox.
2. SURVEILLANCE: A quadcopter can emerge from one of
these solar-powered retractable launch pads to make a run
and return to charge and upload video and imaging data.
3. SECURITY: The lame grounded robots in your plant
don’t move much, unless they are AGVs or self-driving
forklifts or something. And those have to worry about
running into pallets or people. Meanwhile, drones can
not only fly above walls, they can become them, creating
a constantly roving perimeter for your plant. Nightingale
Security’s autonomous Blackbird drones fly 60 mph and
stay aloft for 30 min., so that’s a good choice.
4. SMART FARMING: Qualcomm partnered with Brazil
to find out what impact drones can have at local farms.
The goals were to reduce environmental impact while increasing crop yield. Equipped with the $675 Snapdragon
Flight processor, a $1,000 drone could check irrigation
efficiency and swiftly spot pest problems before a crop is
lost. Other drones are being developed to actively address
issues by spraying pesticides.
5. CHEMICAL SENSING: The European MIRPHAB Project
plans to equip miniature spectroscopes to drones for
chemical sensing in processing applications and for haz-
ard detection. This could be used for multiple processing
applications, or if there was a chemical spill you want to
investigate before sending people in.
6. FIREFIGHTING: Attaching an IR camera to a drone
gives an instant and comprehensive aerial view of a con-flagrated building without the need for a helicopter. They
have been used to track wildfires for years, and this year
marked the first time the New York City Fire Department
used one—for a four-alarm fire in the Bronx.
“The roof started to fail and we had a lot of great radio
reports, but that’s only verbal, so with the drone we had
good visual pictures and it really helped us make decisions to put this fire out and keep our members safe,”
Dan Donoghue, Deputy Assistant Fire Chief, reported
afterwards. “Seeing it is helpful.”
7. DELIVERY: We wrote extensively last spring about how
step changes in processing and sensors are improving
the chances for drones to work within a factory to retrieve
parts or carry tools. Currently, they are strong enough to
at least deliver hot dogs, as 7-11 and Flirtey proved.
8. INVENTORY RETRIEVAL: As batteries and motors
become more miniaturized and are able to still maintain
power, we will see actual use cases of drones scanning
and retrieving inventory from elevated areas, or maybe
even hauling pallets.
9. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE: Con Edison New York
covered a drone in a lightweight hexagonal cage and
sent it up to inspect boiler piping several stories high. As
robotics technology improves, what’s to stop a drone with
little arms from not only inspecting pipes and equipment,
but performing simple maintenance you wouldn’t want to
build scaffolding to address?
10. RACING: Drones paired to VR goggles offer the
wearer a thrilling bird’s eye view of the world. Along with
obvious stalking applications, this tandem is great for
racing, as you can avoid obstacles more easily and the
head-tracking feature turns the camera with a twist of
your head. You could tell your purchasing department
it’s to monitor every nook and cranny of your plant in an
11. REMOTE MONITORING: Better yet, you could actually
use the drone and VR goggles to manage your plant from
end to end without leaving your office. The Fat Shark Teleporter V5 FPV 5.8G Video Goggles bring the FPV experience
for a reasonable price ($249) and the head gesturing
feature is available as an add-on.
12. VIRTUAL REALITY: With current VR tech, fixed cameras are needed to create a totally immersive environment
and track your body’s movements accurately. Drones can
hone in on your position and follow you wherever you
go (except a wind tunnel), and Qualcomm believes its
Snapdragon chips could theoretically feed your movement
data into a VR program. And when factories go even more
digital, this will allow a plant manager to virtually walk into
any plant in the world.
13. STARTING A SIDE BUSINESS: More and more companies are popping up to take advantage of industrial use of
drones. Businesses such as Advanced Drone Technologies
have launched to provide aerial photography and videog-raphy, inspections, mapping, surveying, and agricultural
services. Their FAA-certified pilots can check power lines,
water tanks, and any other place or piece of equipment you
can’t easily send people to check. If your plant masters
any one of the emerging uses, your company can contract
employees for some extra revenue. or you can just start
your own weekend business.
13 Reasons Why Your Plant Should Invest in Drones
High above your workplace or buzzing by your head, drones are everywhere in the industrial sector now.
Here are 13 of the top uses.