Posted by Vi Hughes on Aug 20, 2019
This Tuesday we were treated to a talk by one of our long-time members, Patrick Gibson, on his latest obsession in retirement, drone flying and photography. Patrick said that the use of drones is just starting to take off and they have a very bright future in Alberta and Canada in the future. Drones have opened up a whole new world of aerial photography.
All basic drones come with a camera, but the quality varies a lot. They also come in all sizes, from very small fold up hand-held drones to very large drones built to carry heavy payloads. Some come with a built-in camera and others have a mount to which any type of camera can be attached. The quality of the cameras is commercial grade and Patrick said that he has lowered the picture quality from 4K to 1080p so that his small drone is easier to fly. They are able to be flown either in first person mode, by active control using the screen, or by preprogrammed computer control. The memory needed to save the photos or to send them to a computer as it flies, was causing pauses in the screen picture and made the drone harder to control in first person mode.  This meant that the drone could collide with an object in a second while the screen was on pause. His small drone also takes thirteen Mega pixel still photos., which is more than enough for the average person.
Commercial uses for drones are just beginning to be realised. Most drones come with built in GPS, altimeters, collision avoidance sensors and WIFI. The types of camera that can be attached are almost limitless. Drones, cameras and software to control them and analyze the data for all types of commercial uses are now available. One of the most common types of software to control the drone is called waypoint software. It allows the user to preplan the route they want the drone to fly and upload it to the drone. It will then take off, fly the pattern that was programmed, which can be well out of sight of the operator. It will return to the point is was launched from for a battery or memory card replacement and then take off again and return directly to the pattern where it left off to continue with the planned route.
Aerial mapping and three dimension modelling is the future of drones. The images taken by the camera can be used to identify where a sod crop needs more water, where there is standing water in a field, what type of tree saplings are present on a piece of land, what the elevation of selected points of land are and many, many other uses.
The larger drones that can handle payloads, can also be programmed to spray crops and orchards. They can do a better job in nearly all cases, as they are not restricted by accessibility issues and do not crush the crop as they move across it. Drones will put some types of occupations onto the scrap heap of time and will, in turn, create new ones to take their place.
Drone users are big proponents of a 5 G network as this would make it easier for a drone to transmit data as it flies along without having to return to home to get its memory card swapped out. Technology is changing so fast in this field that it is hard to imagine where it will take us.
All drones over a weight of two hundred fifty grams (a very small drone) require a license to fly them for recreational purposes. There is currently no commercial licensing for drones, but this is coming and will open up all kinds of new uses for drones. Patrick is confident that drones will find all kinds of new and currently unimagined uses in the future.