Eight Indoor and Outdoor Uses for Drones

(That you may not have thought of)

By Riderless Technologies

Everyone knows UAVs are good at filming, mapping, survey, inspection, search and rescue and first responder work.  But here are some other things UAVs can do now, or will be able to do in the very near future.  Which ideas do you like?  We want to make them.  Email us at stefan@riderless.ca or tweet to @riderlessdrone with your comments and suggestions!


  1. Light your way at night

free-spotlight-image-clipart-image

Even a small UAV can carry a bright headlamp.  Not only can you now see clearly where the drone is looking, but you can employ even the most basic CMOS cameras on your UAV at night without relying on more expensive thermal imagery.


  1. Fly without power

Every drone has a “flight time”.  But what if yours didn’t need to be recharged?  You can launch an unpowered drone by catapult and have it glide back to you along a pre-programmed flight path.  This can be used to get a live or recorded aerial view for up to 30 seconds, allowing you to see what’s over the next hill.

The camera and basic electronics can be powered by AAAs for 20+ hours before needing to be replaced.


  1. Be your orbiting situational awareness companion

Many multi-rotors now have the technology to follow you as you walk, run or travel in a vehicle, using visual object tracking and GPS.  But not too many of these personal drones are fixed-wing aircraft that can perform an ongoing orbit around you while staying in the air 40 minutes or more.  It can constantly keep watch for people, animals and vehicles around you and automatically alert you without you ever having to look at the video screen using computer visual object tracking technology.


  1. Act as a wireless sensor network

Perching UAVs can lodge themselves high up in trees where most animals (and vandals) can’t get to them.  They can listen to forest sounds and triangulate their positions, record 3D temperature, humidity and pressure maps, and also can act as a wireless relay to control other UAVs.  This can be an invaluable tool for conservation work.


  1. Insert/extract people from rugged, mountainous zones

Mt. Baker Wilderness

Some people are working on human-carrying drones.  But a drone designed as a technical rescue helicopter?  It needs enough power to carry 100kg (220lbs) for a human and some rescue gear, plus the weight of the aircraft itself and it’s fuel, while staying aloft for at least 15 minutes with multiple failsafes/redundancies.  The best current lithium polymer batteries can do this for just 2 minutes (despite the egregious 23 minute claim of one manufacturer) – but hybrid jet-engine/lithium battery multi-rotors may provide the solution.  Beyond using it for technical mountain rescue; how awesome would it be to have a personal heli-ski chopper that could autonomously fly down after you and pick you up for the next run?


  1. Morph into an underwater or undersea vehicle

Several drones have the ability to fly as a long-range-and-endurance fixed wing aircraft, but also take off vertically and hover in place for detailed inspections.  But being able to both fly in the air and swim underwater would be amazing.  You could get transitional dive-film footage never before possible, and the security applications are obvious.


  1. Find survivors trapped in burning or collapsed buildings

We mostly hear about robot snakes for searching under dense rubble.  But even in a burning or collapsed building where there is no more than 1m x 1m space to fly through, a UAV equipped with sonar can find its way through and report back the locations of trapped people.  A fireproof UAV that can withstand violent wind drafts and physically repel itself from walls is necessary.  An infrared camera is an advantage to find people and tell where the hottest part of the fire is.


  1. Deliver an exploding pepper spray capsule or flash-bang

If an armed suspect is holed up inside a structure, and may have hostages, a small drone can deliver a precise, incapacitating, non-lethal strike exactly where it is needed and buy first responders time to enter.  This one also works well for boarding pirate and illegal vessels at sea.