Years ago, drones seemed like an idea of the future that would only exist in a science fiction novel.
Fast forward to today, where the personal and domestic use of drones is growing rapidly. Ecommerce giant Amazon.com, for example, is working hard on a number of fully autonomous drone prototypes to make their proposed Amazon Prime Air delivery system a reality.
Broadcasted much less often are the drones that offer commercial and industrial uses. As a specialist with experience machining and stamping parts for various flight applications, ESI looked at some of the well-known, and not-so-well-known, industries integrating drone technology into their systems.
Perhaps the most well-known use for drones is within the military industry, where they’re known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPASs). While Predator and Reaper drones get the lion’s share of headlines, the United States Military uses or is currently investigating a wide variety of drones for a number of applications.
Boeing’s Phantom Ray, a larger, stealth-style drone, was designed for surveillance, electronic warfare, and, unique among drones, aerial refueling. Boeing is also developing the Phantom Eye, a two-prop drone packed with tracking and sensor packages designed for use for high altitude (65,000 feet) surveillance and as a long distance communications relay.
Boeing isn’t the only player — Northrop Grumman is developing a number of military drones as well. Their MQ-4C Triton is under development as an unarmed surveillance, battle damage analyzation, and communications relay aircraft. They are also testing the MQ-8C, a fully autonomous helicopter based on their Bell 407 model, for reconnaissance and situational awareness support, as well as fire support when required.
When you think of industries that use drones, the medical industry probably doesn’t come to mind. While not used for direct patient treatment (yet), experiments and trials have started using drones for the transportation of aid packages and medical samples.
One of the earlier instances of using drones for medical-related transportation was in Haiti after the 2012 earthquake — drones were used to deliver small aid packages to locations that emergency services workers had not yet been able to reach.
Stony Brook University is currently experimenting with using drones to quickly and easily transport test samples from remote villages to urban medical facilities, turning a nine-hour trek by foot into a quick 60-minute flight.
Already looking to the future, larger hospitals are beginning to investigate the possibility of using drones to transport blood, organs, and critical supplies between hospitals as need requires.
The Ohio/Indiana Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Center is paving the way for drone use in non-military aerial and aerospace applications.
With funding from and partnerships with the federal government, colleges, and private industry, the UAS Center is researching and developing a number of uses for drones. Notably, they’re using drones and the sophisticated suites of sensory equipment they can carry to evaluate and assess agricultural practices — they’ve been able to closely study crop emergency, soil compaction, runoff patterns, and more.
Even NASA is looking into drones — they are investigating helicopter drone, entomopter, and even balloon drone options for possible including in their 2020 launch of the next Mars Rover.
ESI has produced machined parts for helicopter fixtures and military applications, from tail landing gear to blade clamps. We also have nearly 30 years of experience working with the military, medical and aerospace industries to manufacture helicopter, automotive, and other vehicle parts.