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Drones took to the skys. Where are they going? – II

There are already a variety of industries making use of drones and the application space keeps growing. Image credit: BI Intelligence

So where are they going in this decade?

I can see a broader adoption by industry and municipalities for surveillance and inspection, they are bound to become a common alternative in logistics to ferry small loads. They may also become part of the delivery chain to fit specific needs (like taking off from vans to avoid stopping the vehicle for delivery, last mile delivery). In the graphic you can see today’s areas of drones application with the lion’s share taken by drone photography -42.9%- (most of it in the mass market area) followed by Real Estate – 20.7% (inspection, photogrammetry, surveillance…) and then Utilities -10.9%- (innfrastructures inspection and minor repair), Construction -8.6%- (surveillance and inspection) and Agriculture -8%- (inspection, pesticide spraying,…).

The increasing control and avoidance systems capability will make possible to use drones inside factory workshop for quick inspection, inside hospitals for drug delivery to patient bedside (robots are being experimented today but they are having a hard time negotiating their way in crowded corridors and halls, a drone would just fly over people’s heads).

Support to real-virtual reality is an area that I bet will be explored in this decade: drones can become your eyes to explore far away places. VR equipment will provide you with the sight from the drone camera and moving your body and head will direct the drone to move accordingly delivering the sensation of actually being there. It is actually an example of reality-virtual reality coming together. It is not pure virtual reality since what you are seeing is the “real” reality streaming in through the drone camera but it gives you a virtual presence since you can move your head and body and direct the sight of the drone as if your body and eyes where there delivering the perception of actually being there. More than that. Software gimmick would allow the inclusion in those real streamed images of artefacts, or images taken at a different time and merged in the real time streaming…

The merging of drones and Virtual Reality can be one of the “big thing” of this decade. Watch the clip, it is really worth watching it to get an understanding of how a drone can be used to create a VR settings. In the clip it is stated that the future is about the merging of Real and Virtual and drones , along with Digital Twins, can be a bridge technology in making this happen. As shown in the clip drones will become more and more used to create VR environment, capturing 360° virtual environment through software that combines the video streams from the drones cameras (more on this in the next post).

The Space Creator Drone, the first drone designed to deliver Augmented Reality. Simply amazing. Image credit: Yanko Design

Of course it is not a big deal to imagine a combination of drones and Augmented Reality! You fly (seamlessly) your drone, get images from its camera and those images get augmented by additional information providing an Augmented Reality experience.

There is, however, another way of looking at the pair drone-augmented reality: using a drone to project AR on the physical world.

The Space Creator Drone, in the picture, instead of having a digital camera has a digital projector. This is used to project digital images onto physical objects “augmenting” them. It is the first of this kind (that I am aware of) but I expect in this decade we are going to see several others.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.