Drones have been subject to a lot of bad press over the recent years, not least following the events at Gatwick and Heathrow in December 2018.
Here at Drone Safe Register, we don’t feel that enough is factually known about the circumstances on those days in December last year for us to make a specific comment as yet, although we are working through legal and governmental channels to see where we can take the drone industry moving forward.
It’s clear that there are concerns over illegal operators, the criminal fraternity, safety and invasion of privacy, something of course Commercial Drone Pilots have been talking about for years, but for every bad news story there are far more good ones.  Here’s some of the ways that UAVs (in the safe hands of licensed operators) can make valuable contributions to society.
Supporting the Emergency Services
The police, fire service and coastguard are increasingly leveraging the power of drone technology to carry out some of their vital work. Search and rescue (SAR) operations can be conducted faster with a remote drone piloted craft that can take an aerial view, providing real time high quality video and covering large areas with the no risk to personnel.  Rescue teams can then be deployed in a targeted fashion. The addition of highly sensitive and accurate thermal cameras can add a new dimension to this.
Surveying Disaster Zones
When natural disasters strike, the speed of the response can make all the difference.  However the terrain can be difficult and dangerous for ground based survey and rescue crews.  A camera in the sky can map the extent of the damage, feeding back information to the relevant authorities in real time. This can save valuable time, aid in planning rescue strategies and communicate the situation internationally for co-ordinated relief efforts.
Weather Investigation and Forecasting
Even in this modern age, there is so much unknown about certain weather phenomena. This is largely due to the safety risks posed by sending a human being into the midst of a hurricane for example.  A drone however, can venture where people fear to tread and collect valuable data that can aid in understanding these weather events and improve forecasting abilities.
Protection of Wildlife
The ability of a drone to cover large areas quickly and safely means that they are being increasingly used to monitor wildlife populations. Imaging the challenges faced in monitoring and protecting wildlife in a big game reserve.  Drones can allow fast and easy inspection no matter what challenges the terrain poses, without disturbing the animals and carry out the security inspections so vital in the fight against poaching.
Agricultural Management
In all sorts of agriculture, farmers are faced with the challenge of keeping an eye on large tracts of land. If you put that eye in the sky, then your job gets a whole lot easier – we actually have a whole post about how drones can be utilised in the field of agriculture (if you’ll pardon the pun)  – livestock monitoring, surveying crop health, thermal imaging during the growing season, all of these can provide invaluable benefits to the farmer.
Reducing Inspection Costs
Drones can carry out inspection work at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods such as scaffolding and elevated platforms.  Alongside this, they minimise the health and safety risks posed to workers operating at height. While this sounds like a benefit that only helps private enterprise, it can also help to slash costs from the public purse. Councils are starting to wake up to the potential savings of using drones to inspect their assets and this is just the beginning.  Improved and regular inspections of infrastructure items such as railways and bridges can improve public safety and again make cost savings over traditional inspection methods through targeted deployment of repair crews and minimisation of downtime.
Mapping
Large areas of the world are still unmapped and drones are increasingly being deployed to fill in the blanks. With detailed mapping comes greater understanding of local natural resources, the needs of the population and the ability to plan development of an area to the benefit of all. In fact the BBC recently published a very interesting article about the use of drones in mapping areas of Zanzibar.
Aerial Photography & Videography
Outside of some of the very practical applications, drones are capable of capturing some breathtaking aerial photographs and footage.  From revealing hitherto inaccessible areas of natural beauty to creating exciting and dynamic cinematic shots, airborne cameras really can create something beautiful.
This article doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what drones in the hands of professionals are being used to accomplish or what they can do in the future. PwC have also support the Drone Good News story, by estimating that the industry is forecast to bring an estimate £40b to the UK economy by 2020. So next time the headlines seem terrifying and the future of UAVs seems dark, it’s worth remembering all the positives that this fledgling industry is already bringing to the world at large.
Image taken professionally, legally and with Gatwick ATC and NATS permission by a Drone Safe Register professional member (Drone Safe Register Members), just over 1 kilometre from the airport in 2018.
Image taken professionally, legally and with Gatwick ATC and NATS permission by a Drone Safe Register professional member, just over a kilometre from the airport in 2018.

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About the Author: DSR Journalist

Henry Greenshields