UAVs are being used for a number of civilian and commercial purposes, from photography and videography, survey and mapping, inspections, transport to network swarming where they work together to complete a task. This article discusses some of UAV’s current commercial applications and the risk that the growth of UAVs poses on the public.
Agriculture and Wildlife
UAVs can be used to monitor many aspects of agriculture. Apart from offering an aerial inspection of the crops, they can help in inspecting soil erosion and other parameters that are hard to observe from the ground. Japanese were the first people to have used this technology for agricultural purposes. There are many types of UAVs that are being used in the agriculture sector nowadays. In addition to agriculture, they can prove to be quite helpful in forestry too. They can take photos of the forests as well as the wildlife present in them to keep a steady count of the animals living in there. Moreover, they can be used to assist in putting out forest fires that may erupt from time to time.
Although various satellites are being used for studying different aspects of earth there is still need for aerial inspections to completely understand weather phenomena. The use of UAVs in this field can help in this regard and make it a lot easier for scientists to predict climate and weather changes more accurately.
Security and Law Enforcement
The borders as well as internal security can be very well taken care of with UAV technology. They can also play a crucial role in law enforcement too. They can be used for assisting the police in catching criminals and collecting evidence, search and rescues, surveillance and more.
UAVs may replace manned vehicles in the commercial field as some services have little need for human involvement, including transporting commodities from one place to another with ease.
Despite all of the promise that UAVs have shown, the commercial use of these aerial vehicles is still in its initial developmental phase. You may not see transport activities being carried out with the help of UAVs in the near future because of the risks they pose.
Safety Risks Related to UAV Transport
It is the duty of the national airspace authority to make sure that the airspace remains safe. However, UAV transport poses a great threat to airspace safety as it is extremely hard to control the drone’s flight pattern especially when it is flying into an area where various airplanes carrying passengers and goods are present. The following are some of the safety risks that may arise because of UAV transportation.
The risks of air collisions increase when an airborne vehicle is not operated by a sensible and trained pilot. So, when we are talking about a UAV which isn’t controlled by any pilot, the chances of a collision happening in the air multiply greatly. While the pilot of a manned aircraft can detect the presence of vehicles flying in their vicinity and take evasive action quickly, a drone cannot make that call unless it is directed to do so from the ground. Thus, UAVs are more likely to get involved in an air collision than piloted aircraft. Unless this safety issue is resolved, the future of UAV transport looks questionable.
It is not only the collision of the UAV with other aircraft in the air that may cause great damage. They can collide with objects on the ground too, causing damage to both people and their properties. There is always a possibility of the UAV going berserk due to loss of signal from the operator or some technical fault in the system. This will pose a risk of the UAV falling from the air and crashing in a populated area. This may lead to the debris entering the houses or people getting killed as a result of the direct impact. This, however will depend on various factors such as,
· The population size
· The size of the debris
· The reliability of the vehicle
· History of failure of the device
When it comes to relying on the devices and gadgets solely based on technology there is always an apprehension because of the history of failures that one has seen through the years. UAVs controlled from the ground that are operated using human intelligence can be manipulated as the on-ground pilot take decisions based on the situation. However, such systems too have been seen to crash and become the major cause of loss of lives during transport. The most common reason for accidents of this sort has been failure of various parts and machinery of the aircraft. So, when it comes to leaving decision making to machines that only operate as per pre-fed instructions, the risk of accidents increases many folds. It will take a lot of research and analysis to produce a system that is reliable in future. However, as of now the use of UAVs is still under observation and it will take many more years for them to share the airspace with manned aircraft.
Getting insurance is also an important issue as people find it extremely hard to get their UAVs insured. The main problem cited by many insurance providers is the susceptibility of the system to failure. In addition to this, the safety issues related to the UAVs is another concern why insurance companies are reluctant to insure these aerial vehicles.
Privacy and Security Issues
Privacy is a major concern associated with drone use as no one wants UAVs peeping into their homes while flying past them. Moreover, the UAVs themselves are not very safe and can be hacked any time. If a drone is hacked by terrorists then they can use it for their ulterior motives, risking the life of millions.
So, because of all of these issues and concerns, governments all over the world are reluctant to go forward with UAV transport for now.