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Our Fine Tethered Friends

In VC’s Commercial and UAV report, the section detailing Technical Requirements (chapter 2), discussed in some detail the alternative of tethered drones. Recent articles in the media have shown that this niche market is developing apace.

Tethered UAVs on building sites for use with surveillance cameras make good economic sense. The basic problem with dirigibles is that payload capacity is limited. One cubic metre of Helium in a balloon can only lift roughly 1 kg which must include its own frame weight and the weight of its tether so to put a camera at 150m (say) probably requires an inflatable of 20m3. It might be possible to tether one to the top of a tower crane and reduce the size if the site has a tower crane. Helium is also a very leaky gas so top-ups are a necessary evil.

One interesting use of tethered dirigibles is as repeater relays for relaying commands to a fixed wing UAV flying over a large cattle station or ranch. Six tethered dirigibles at 150m on the horizon with repeater relays for command signals would allow the survey UAV to patrol an area several times the area of greater London which is quite useful for larger cattle stations in Australia which exceed this area by several times and even some of the ranches in Canada and the USA which almost approach this area.

The commercial world is cottoning on to the techniques that have already been used by military forces all over the world. Raven Aerostar has been making aerostats for military applications for several decades. They offer technological solutions for Integrated Situational Awareness (ISA) which is essentially a tethered blimp with a camera, radar and communication package.

AT&T have now tested a flying cell tower (delightfully called ‘The Flying COW’ – Cell On Wings) that can provide 4G coverage for 100 Km, essentially the area of Paris, France or Bronx County in New York City. It is tethered to a vehicle-based ground station which continuously powers the device and, using a fibre cable, sends and receives data. AT&T see the uses for this in Disaster Monitoring and Recovery and temporary set-ups such as music festivals.

EE says it is deploy a fleet of Allsop “helikite” drones over the next three years to extend wireless coverage in rural areas and when its 4G network goes down or needs more capacity. These are presently used by the military for surveillance and communication enhancement. Of particular benefit is their all-weather capability, the aerodynamic profile allowing overflight to continue in rain, snow and wind. EE expects to launch its first drone this year to coincide with a music festival such as Glastonbury that draws tens of thousands of fans to a remote location overloading the local network. Additionally, these Helikites have been used by ships in remote locations such as the Arctic and have been deployed for land and infrastructure surveys.

Another interesting potential for Helikites is in agriculture. Drone surveys for precision agriculture and forestry tend to be a single flight survey at a particular time of the day using Infra-red cameras, LiDAR and ordinary photometry. This provides an invaluable snapshot to indicate plants in distress and allow planning for remedial action. A permanent survey vehicle, such as a Helikite, would allow crop monitoring over 24 hours or longer which allows the agricultural engineer to pinpoint many more areas for crop yield improvement.

Last month, Bronx Fire Department, the largest fire department in the United States, deployed a tethered drone for blaze assessment on a building in Bronx County.

On 6th of March 2017, a building in Bronx County caught ablaze. The conflagration needed four units to tackle it and it posed significant dangers to firefighters. Normally the firefighting team would survey the fire from adjacent high-rises to optimise their team deployment. On this occasion the department used a Hoverfly Technologies drone to take high-resolution colour and thermal infrared footage that gave them a clear understanding of the fire spread so allowing for safe access. Hoverfly use Yuneec drones and a lightweight tether to power the drone and transmit and receive data.

Tethered drones can give prolonged surveying capability. During Catastrophe Remediation and in emergency situations, persistent surveillance allows the rescuing service to effectively strategise their deployment so saving lives and property. The ground power allows more heavy duty lift motors than would be possible with battery power which gives greater payload but that payload includes the weight of the tether so the Hoverfly combination is limited to 150m height. In addition, the tether limits manoeuvrability.

Two other suppliers of tethered drones are Powerline and Cyphyworks. Both use the DJI Inspire drone and address the same market as Hoverfly.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="4994|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Combined-picture-1024x555-1.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text columns="" column_min_width="" column_spacing="" rule_style="default" rule_size="" rule_color="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]In VC’s Commercial and UAV report, the section detailing Technical Requirements (chapter 2), discussed in some detail the alternative of tethered drones. Recent articles in the media have shown that this niche market is developing apace. Tethered UAVs on building sites for use with surveillance cameras make good economic sense. The basic problem with dirigibles is that payload capacity is limited. One cubic metre of Helium in a balloon can only lift roughly 1 kg which must include its own frame weight and the weight of its tether so to put a camera at 150m (say) probably requires an inflatable of 20m3. It might be possible to tether one to the top of a tower crane and reduce the size if the site has a tower crane. Helium is also a very leaky gas so top-ups are a necessary evil. One interesting use of tethered dirigibles is as repeater relays for relaying commands to a fixed wing UAV flying over a large cattle station or ranch. Six tethered dirigibles at 150m on the horizon with repeater relays for command signals would allow the survey UAV to patrol an area several times the area of greater London which is quite useful for larger cattle stations in Australia which exceed this area by several times and even some of the ranches in Canada and the USA which almost approach this area. The commercial world is cottoning on to the techniques that have already been used by military forces all over the world. Raven Aerostar has been making aerostats for military applications for several decades. They offer technological solutions for Integrated Situational Awareness (ISA) which is essentially a tethered blimp with a camera, radar and communication package. AT&T have now tested a flying cell tower (delightfully called ‘The Flying COW’ – Cell On Wings) that can provide 4G coverage for 100 Km, essentially the area of Paris, France or Bronx County in New York City. It is tethered to a vehicle-based ground station which continuously powers the device and, using a fibre cable, sends and receives data. AT&T see the uses for this in Disaster Monitoring and Recovery and temporary set-ups such as music festivals. EE says it is deploy a fleet of Allsop “helikite” drones over the next three years to extend wireless coverage in rural areas and when its 4G network goes down or needs more capacity. These are presently used by the military for surveillance and communication enhancement. Of particular benefit is their all-weather capability, the aerodynamic profile allowing overflight to continue in rain, snow and wind. EE expects to launch its first drone this year to coincide with a music festival such as Glastonbury that draws tens of thousands of fans to a remote location overloading the local network. Additionally, these Helikites have been used by ships in remote locations such as the Arctic and have been deployed for land and infrastructure surveys. Another interesting potential for Helikites is in agriculture. Drone surveys for precision agriculture and forestry tend to be a single flight survey at a particular time of the day using Infra-red cameras, LiDAR and ordinary photometry. This provides an invaluable snapshot to indicate plants in distress and allow planning for remedial action. A permanent survey vehicle, such as a Helikite, would allow crop monitoring over 24 hours or longer which allows the agricultural engineer to pinpoint many more areas for crop yield improvement. Last month, Bronx Fire Department, the largest fire department in the United States, deployed a tethered drone for blaze assessment on a building in Bronx County. On 6th of March 2017, a building in Bronx County caught ablaze. The conflagration needed four units to tackle it and it posed significant dangers to firefighters. Normally the firefighting team would survey the fire from adjacent high-rises to optimise their team deployment. On this occasion the department used a Hoverfly Technologies drone to take high-resolution colour and thermal infrared footage that gave them a clear understanding of the fire spread so allowing for safe access. Hoverfly use Yuneec drones and a lightweight tether to power the drone and transmit and receive data. Tethered drones can give prolonged surveying capability. During Catastrophe Remediation and in emergency situations, persistent surveillance allows the rescuing service to effectively strategise their deployment so saving lives and property. The ground power allows more heavy duty lift motors than would be possible with battery power which gives greater payload but that payload includes the weight of the tether so the Hoverfly combination is limited to 150m height. In addition, the tether limits manoeuvrability. Two other suppliers of tethered drones are Powerline and Cyphyworks. Both use the DJI Inspire drone and address the same market as Hoverfly.[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Terra Drone in Terra Incognita

In an interesting move, the Japanese drone surveying company Terra Drone has opened an office in Fortitude Valley in Queensland. Fortitude Valley is a suburb of Brisbane most famous for shopping and nightlife. Terra Drone specialised in LiDAR surveying of construction, mining sites and forestry and land surveys. It also has a small unmanned crop spraying helicopter ideally suited for market gardens and small holdings typical of Japanese farming.

While Queensland has a reasonably progressive attitude to the use of drones, there has to be some worry associated with this diversification. The mining industry in Australia has been severely depleted during this current economic down-turn and as China has decreased its mineral requirements considerably.

Farming in Queensland tends to be on a larger scale. Australia, in general, and Queensland, in particular, has not been blessed with deep and fertile soils so fields must be larger to obtain the same yield. Precision farming is still at the early stages of implementation although there has been a $2.5 million project funded by Queensland’s Agriculture Department and the Federal Government. There are already several companies promoting Precision Agriculture throughout Australia so the market is not without competition.

The construction industry is also largely flat for the nation as a whole with growth forecast at a miserly 0.1%. South Australia and Western Australia have the most promising outlook while Queensland construction is expected to contract by around 7%.

The markets that Terra Drone normally address have a fairly poor outlook and they have sited their office in an area not normally associated with commercial activities that might need a drone. They have set themselves a unique challenge and we wish them luck.

For more information about the commercial UAV market, please click here.

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[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="no" equal_height_columns="no" menu_anchor="" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" background_color="" background_image="" background_position="center center" background_repeat="no-repeat" fade="no" background_parallax="none" parallax_speed="0.3" video_mp4="" video_webm="" video_ogv="" video_url="" video_aspect_ratio="16:9" video_loop="yes" video_mute="yes" overlay_color="" video_preview_image="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" padding_top="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" padding_right=""][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" layout="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" border_position="all" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding_top="" padding_right="" padding_bottom="" padding_left="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" center_content="no" last="no" min_height="" hover_type="none" link=""][fusion_imageframe image_id="5022|full" max_width="" style_type="" blur="" stylecolor="" hover_type="none" bordersize="" bordercolor="" borderradius="" align="center" lightbox="no" gallery_id="" lightbox_image="" lightbox_image_id="" alt="" link="" linktarget="_self" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_direction="left" animation_speed="0.3" animation_offset=""]http://217.199.187.200/valourconsultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Terra-Drone-1-1-1024x619-1.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type="default" hide_on_mobile="small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility" class="" id="" sep_color="#ffffff" top_margin="20" bottom_margin="20" border_size="" icon="" icon_circle="" icon_circle_color="" width="" alignment="center" /][fusion_text] In an interesting move, the Japanese drone surveying company Terra Drone has opened an office in Fortitude Valley in Queensland. Fortitude Valley is a suburb of Brisbane most famous for shopping and nightlife. Terra Drone specialised in LiDAR surveying of construction, mining sites and forestry and land surveys. It also has a small unmanned crop spraying helicopter ideally suited for market gardens and small holdings typical of Japanese farming. While Queensland has a reasonably progressive attitude to the use of drones, there has to be some worry associated with this diversification. The mining industry in Australia has been severely depleted during this current economic down-turn and as China has decreased its mineral requirements considerably. Farming in Queensland tends to be on a larger scale. Australia, in general, and Queensland, in particular, has not been blessed with deep and fertile soils so fields must be larger to obtain the same yield. Precision farming is still at the early stages of implementation although there has been a $2.5 million project funded by Queensland's Agriculture Department and the Federal Government. There are already several companies promoting Precision Agriculture throughout Australia so the market is not without competition. The construction industry is also largely flat for the nation as a whole with growth forecast at a miserly 0.1%. South Australia and Western Australia have the most promising outlook while Queensland construction is expected to contract by around 7%. The markets that Terra Drone normally address have a fairly poor outlook and they have sited their office in an area not normally associated with commercial activities that might need a drone. They have set themselves a unique challenge and we wish them luck. For more information about the commercial UAV market, please click here. [/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Time for the Niche Drone Market to explode

Within the last two years, the number of start-ups of “One Man and his Drone” has increased exponentially. These now number in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. It seems if you need a nice picture of your house from the sky or a wedding party featuring the father of the bride’s bald spot, somebody with a drone can be hired to do the job.

The next tranche of drone business development is well underway and Youtube videos of a window-washing drone, a Japanese bridge inspection drone (which looks a bit like a flying bedstead), and, of course, industrial pipeline, power line and plant inspection drones are easily found. All of these drone applications mimic and can undertake tasks previously performed with expensive man-hours at a fraction of the cost.

An interesting variant of these applications is undertaking inspections and monitoring in ways that even an expensive man cannot do or is disinclined to do. It is self-evident that power lines rarely fail, or roofs rarely leak when the sun is shining and the winds are balmy yet this is when most current inspections take place. How much better would it be if roofs could be inspected in high winds and torrential rain and power lines checked during storms?

No such drone exists yet but all the ingredients to make such a workhorse exist if some entrepreneur can assemble these pieces into a fighting unit, demonstrate its feasibility, acquire the correct permissions and experience to fly these missions and show that they can analyse the results and produce a program to deal with the problems. Those people who had hitherto been searching for a better mousetrap will about face and beat a path towards his door.

Inspection and monitoring under duress (IMUD)

If we consider the environmental conditions that contribute to infrastructure failure such as rain storms, high winds, snow storms, sand storms, flammable or toxic gas atmospheres, then we can begin to write a specification for the drone we want to operate in some or all of these conditions. To function in such situations, we need drones that can fly and hold station in high winds, that are waterproof, that are relatively unaffected by temperature, are resistant to abrasion and are unaffected by the atmospheric composition (and do not generate sparks). Of individual importance are drones that can investigate radiation leaks as this is not a real problem or drones but is quite a problem for animal life including inspectors.

For waterproof drones, there are several manufacturers who have already broached this market including Prodrone in Japan who manufacture heavy duty drones that have payloads of up to 20kg, and are water-resistant with capabilities of flying (but not necessarily station-keeping) in wind speeds of 10m/sec. A Thai company, QuadH2o, produces thoroughly waterproof drones (one model can actually function underwater) and they fly in slightly stronger winds 10.8 m/sec (which equates to a strong breeze) and state in their specifications that they have reasonable station-keeping. The payload is a respectable 2 kg which allows some reasonable jewellery such as GoPro 4 to be hung from it. Whether this is sufficient for detailed monitoring and inspection is questionable. There are several other waterproof drones such as Swellpro’s Splash Drone but this are aimed more at the hobbyist market.

Flying in high winds, much above 8 m/sec (moderate breeze) is generally ill-advised. When confronted with the need to accomplish a difficult engineering task, the first thing to do is to check if nature hasn’t solved the problem already and to copy her. As mentioned in Valour’s Drone report, certain migrating birds have been tracked flying through hurricanes avoiding the great detours required. Undertake a search for ‘the plucky whimbrel’ or ‘whimbrel called Chinquapin’ for more information. However, in general, the success rate for such journeys is low although it does not appear that the bird frame fails, merely its power source. Other seabirds such as the albatross and stormy petrel are famous for sailing across the waves in near gales (17 m/sec). Strangely enough, some very small insects are also able to navigate in relatively high winds as part of their migration strategy but they’ve had 350 million years to develop this technique.

However there are drones that, if not specifically designed for the job, can perform in such arduous conditions. For instance, Aeryon Labs, a Canadian company, produces the Skyranger which can operate in gale winds (18m/sec) with gusts of storm force (25m/sec). Interestingly, the temperature range of operation is from -30°C to +50°C. The drone is not very suitable for snow storms or driving rain as it is only rated to IP53 (not much dust can get into the enclosure and rain from above to an angle of 60° shouldn’t get in either).

Aerialtronics have a useful drone called an Altura Zenith ATX8 that has a payload of 2.9 kg and can operate in winds of 12 m/sec (strong breeze) but is described as suitable for light rain or snowfall only. PSI Tactical Robotics, a Massachusetts company, produces a small self-described all-weather surveillance drone called Instant Eye which can fly in 24.4 m/sec winds (strong gale). While useful for safety and security, its worth as an instrument of inspection is doubtful.

Snow storms are treated a bit like light rain by many drone designers. Aerial Imaging Solutions custom who build drones for environmental explorations in the arctic regions do not appear to have a production model capable of dealing with a full-on snow blizzard. Sand storms are a little more difficult to deal with. The sheer abrasion suffered by mechanical devices can be severe but a DJI Phantom 2 modified by Aerial Media Pros with an Ag Pro Scout flew in a 22m/sec (severe gale sand storm) without too much damage, although the video itself was only a few minutes long.

Flammable and toxic atmospheres and those deficient in oxygen are relatively simple inspections as there are several very light-weight electro-chemical sensors developed for military and security purposes, but these are one-off use devices that must be replaced once the electro-chemical reaction has taken place. Monitoring by drone demands slightly weightier detectors. However the Dutch company Aerialtronics and the German company AirRobot (in cahoots with the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing or BAM, an acronym which stands for Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und –prüfung) have both been able to undertake gas monitoring using drones or micro-drones. What is not clear from their websites is whether these drones are rated to be able to fly in areas where the atmosphere has a sufficient concentration of flammable gas or dust or whether the guidance system will allow them to enter complicated spaces where GPS signals are impossible to receive.

More importantly, it appears that sensor technologies are quickly rising to the challenge of producing sensible sensor arrays using NDIR (Non-dispersive Infra-Red) detectors particularly for exhaust gas emission monitoring which might prove somewhat problematic for the shipping industry. The Californian company, Flycam UAV have mounted a US Nuclear Corporation radiation sensor on their drone to detect radiation leaks. It is clear that the uses for commercial UAVs are only limited by one’s imagination. For more information on Valour Consultancy’s recently published UAV report, please click here.

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Within the last two years, the number of start-ups of “One Man and his Drone” has increased exponentially. These now number in the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. It seems if you need a nice picture of your house from the sky or a wedding party featuring the father of the bride’s bald spot, somebody with a drone can be hired to do the job. The next tranche of drone business development is well underway and Youtube videos of a window-washing drone, a Japanese bridge inspection drone (which looks a bit like a flying bedstead), and, of course, industrial pipeline, power line and plant inspection drones are easily found. All of these drone applications mimic and can undertake tasks previously performed with expensive man-hours at a fraction of the cost. An interesting variant of these applications is undertaking inspections and monitoring in ways that even an expensive man cannot do or is disinclined to do. It is self-evident that power lines rarely fail, or roofs rarely leak when the sun is shining and the winds are balmy yet this is when most current inspections take place. How much better would it be if roofs could be inspected in high winds and torrential rain and power lines checked during storms? No such drone exists yet but all the ingredients to make such a workhorse exist if some entrepreneur can assemble these pieces into a fighting unit, demonstrate its feasibility, acquire the correct permissions and experience to fly these missions and show that they can analyse the results and produce a program to deal with the problems. Those people who had hitherto been searching for a better mousetrap will about face and beat a path towards his door. Inspection and monitoring under duress (IMUD) If we consider the environmental conditions that contribute to infrastructure failure such as rain storms, high winds, snow storms, sand storms, flammable or toxic gas atmospheres, then we can begin to write a specification for the drone we want to operate in some or all of these conditions. To function in such situations, we need drones that can fly and hold station in high winds, that are waterproof, that are relatively unaffected by temperature, are resistant to abrasion and are unaffected by the atmospheric composition (and do not generate sparks). Of individual importance are drones that can investigate radiation leaks as this is not a real problem or drones but is quite a problem for animal life including inspectors. For waterproof drones, there are several manufacturers who have already broached this market including Prodrone in Japan who manufacture heavy duty drones that have payloads of up to 20kg, and are water-resistant with capabilities of flying (but not necessarily station-keeping) in wind speeds of 10m/sec. A Thai company, QuadH2o, produces thoroughly waterproof drones (one model can actually function underwater) and they fly in slightly stronger winds 10.8 m/sec (which equates to a strong breeze) and state in their specifications that they have reasonable station-keeping. The payload is a respectable 2 kg which allows some reasonable jewellery such as GoPro 4 to be hung from it. Whether this is sufficient for detailed monitoring and inspection is questionable. There are several other waterproof drones such as Swellpro’s Splash Drone but this are aimed more at the hobbyist market. Flying in high winds, much above 8 m/sec (moderate breeze) is generally ill-advised. When confronted with the need to accomplish a difficult engineering task, the first thing to do is to check if nature hasn’t solved the problem already and to copy her. As mentioned in Valour’s Drone report, certain migrating birds have been tracked flying through hurricanes avoiding the great detours required. Undertake a search for ‘the plucky whimbrel’ or ‘whimbrel called Chinquapin’ for more information. However, in general, the success rate for such journeys is low although it does not appear that the bird frame fails, merely its power source. Other seabirds such as the albatross and stormy petrel are famous for sailing across the waves in near gales (17 m/sec). Strangely enough, some very small insects are also able to navigate in relatively high winds as part of their migration strategy but they’ve had 350 million years to develop this technique. However there are drones that, if not specifically designed for the job, can perform in such arduous conditions. For instance, Aeryon Labs, a Canadian company, produces the Skyranger which can operate in gale winds (18m/sec) with gusts of storm force (25m/sec). Interestingly, the temperature range of operation is from -30°C to +50°C. The drone is not very suitable for snow storms or driving rain as it is only rated to IP53 (not much dust can get into the enclosure and rain from above to an angle of 60° shouldn’t get in either). Aerialtronics have a useful drone called an Altura Zenith ATX8 that has a payload of 2.9 kg and can operate in winds of 12 m/sec (strong breeze) but is described as suitable for light rain or snowfall only. PSI Tactical Robotics, a Massachusetts company, produces a small self-described all-weather surveillance drone called Instant Eye which can fly in 24.4 m/sec winds (strong gale). While useful for safety and security, its worth as an instrument of inspection is doubtful. Snow storms are treated a bit like light rain by many drone designers. Aerial Imaging Solutions custom who build drones for environmental explorations in the arctic regions do not appear to have a production model capable of dealing with a full-on snow blizzard. Sand storms are a little more difficult to deal with. The sheer abrasion suffered by mechanical devices can be severe but a DJI Phantom 2 modified by Aerial Media Pros with an Ag Pro Scout flew in a 22m/sec (severe gale sand storm) without too much damage, although the video itself was only a few minutes long. Flammable and toxic atmospheres and those deficient in oxygen are relatively simple inspections as there are several very light-weight electro-chemical sensors developed for military and security purposes, but these are one-off use devices that must be replaced once the electro-chemical reaction has taken place. Monitoring by drone demands slightly weightier detectors. However the Dutch company Aerialtronics and the German company AirRobot (in cahoots with the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing or BAM, an acronym which stands for Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und –prüfung) have both been able to undertake gas monitoring using drones or micro-drones. What is not clear from their websites is whether these drones are rated to be able to fly in areas where the atmosphere has a sufficient concentration of flammable gas or dust or whether the guidance system will allow them to enter complicated spaces where GPS signals are impossible to receive. More importantly, it appears that sensor technologies are quickly rising to the challenge of producing sensible sensor arrays using NDIR (Non-dispersive Infra-Red) detectors particularly for exhaust gas emission monitoring which might prove somewhat problematic for the shipping industry. The Californian company, Flycam UAV have mounted a US Nuclear Corporation radiation sensor on their drone to detect radiation leaks. It is clear that the uses for commercial UAVs are only limited by one’s imagination. For more information on Valour Consultancy’s recently published UAV report, please click here.