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  1. Drones and their Environmental Impact

    Drones have always been into a limited field of army and defence but slowly and steadily it has entered the mainstream. Now these smart bots are being used everywhere from conservation to photography, the uses of these drones have widened its horizon. But there are pros and cons attached, let’s take a walkthrough of how the drones have affected the environmental factors, and are this camera robot a threat or it’s just a mere robotic machine flying in the air. Drones and their Uses – Well if we have a strong understanding of how drones are being used, it gets easy to conclude on the pros and cons. The Defence system proved the monitoring abilities of this machine when further this camera bot was used, the spectacular aerial images opened new horizons for its usage. Now photographers and videographers are among the avid buyers of this gadget. The continuous use of aerial photography and monitoring opened gates for new ways of conservation and protection. The wildlife, agriculture and energy projects have started using drones. The more it is being used in different sectors the debate over the pros and cons have begun, so let’s have a look, how are these drones impacting the environment. Agriculture – The farmers have started relying on the robotic vehicles in order to collect information and take actions accordingly. When a drone identifies a type of weed growing in a specific area that area is then sprayed with a pesticide that helps in unnecessary usage of pesticides in the field. Wildlife - Monitoring and keeping a check on the wildlife animals and plants is now an easy business. Now at very cheap costs and with almost no manual task-force wildlife conservation tasks can be taken care of. Energy Plants – Maintaining big machinery, how to check if they are functioning properly, what are the areas that got affected and so forth. But with this little camera vehicle, almost all are problems being solved. Pros Low Cost – If used effectively then this vehicle will be a cheaper option than other alternatives. Accuracy – Unlike the old and traditional ways of surveillance, drones are accurate and require minimal staff. They are quiet and vigilant machines that give an accurate information. Longer Operational Hours – Humans can be saved from continuous long work duties because these flying vehicles will enable to look/spy/watch for longer hours. Life Saving- Spying or keeping an eye becomes an easy affair via losing any life. Aerial mapping & Monitoring – These little vehicles are best for aerial photography and videography, they are ideal and with a 5 kg drone you can easily fly for several hours and get exquisite images. Disaster Relief – In difficult times, drones act as saviours and are perfect for surveillance and providing aid to the affected zones and the people. Wildlife Protection – This little vehicle is able to capture pictures and videos of hard reach areas, which plays a crucial role in conserving the environment. Sustainable Agriculture – UAV’s are now more precision agricultural instruments and are at a quick speed replacing a lot of old school methods. It is now becoming an invaluable tool for farmers. Cons Limited Abilities - Yes, no matter how much we talk about them, some manual actions are always needed to give directions to these gadgets. Easy to operate – The easy operations of the drones are making it an accessible mode, which will be a concern ion near future. Drone Strikes – Drone strikes and munitions are sad to be harmful to public health because of their chemical content. As we look towards the advances of the growing usage of drones and affordable prices we are sure to see more of these flying machines. There are cons but better benefits quick deploy, clear images and with upcoming technological advances, we can see a win-win situation for these UAVs.
  2. If there's one thing without which modern society would seize to exist, it's oil. (Well, living without Internet will also positively suck, but that's a whole different story right here.) Realistically speaking, for the time being, despite the billions of dollars that are being put into the development of green technologies, oil remains essential to the proper functioning of our lives. Oil supplies our factories and makes our means of transportation move, it helps trade, makes manufacturing and transportation of goods, including food and medicines, possible. All in all, we need oil to survive. But the huge demand for oil we've experienced since the Second Industrial Revolution comes at a great cost for the planet and respectively, for the entire human kind. Each year we drill about 14 trillion liters of oil. That alone has tremendous environmental consequences which are next to impossible to be countered because, hey, "Drill, baby, drill!". But there's another negative side of oil consumption, and it's the fact that during transportation a significant quantity of oil is spilled, thereby destroying entire ecosystems, polluting the habitat of all kinds of plant and animal species. And because oil is mostly transported across oceans, this is where most spills occur. The results are both immediate and long-term, so looking for ways to eliminate the spill and counter its effect is crucial for the preservation of Earth's oceans. But cleaning something so vast as an ocean is not an easy task. Luckily, technology has evolved and continues to rapidly do so to such an extent that we might already have a working solution to the issue – drones. We've seen drones being deployed in various places, efficiently handling all kinds of situations. Recently a startup in the Netherlands even introduced a project which aims to develop a fully functional house cleaning drone. So if the technology could be utilized for the needs of home cleaning, it's only natural for it to be used in the quest of preserving our oceans. Airborne Emergency Response to Oil SpillsHere's where AEROS (Airborne Emergency Response to Oil Spills) comes into play. Essentially, AEROS is an unmanned, robotic system which locates oils spills and deploys robots and inflatable booms at spill sites by an airplane. Once in the water, the booms inflate themselves and surround the spill. Then the unmanned robots start purging the water. The water-cleansing robots suck the contaminated water in and spin it inside. The swirl that forms leaves the oil at the center and then collects it in a special bladder, while it pushes the pure water outside. Each robot has an incredible capacity, filtrating over 7000 litres per minute. And the oil that is recovered, up to 90% of the spill, is later collected from the bladders and can be later sold as an additional stream of revenue. Just in comparison, the methods that is being used by far could only filtrate and recover about 5% of the oil. Protei ProjectThe Protei Project is another promising startup which aims to counter oil spills. The people behind this large-scale international project have developed a shape-shifting sailing robots which will patrol the oceans, clean up oil spills and collect plastic waste. The autonomous robots will essentially sail upwind, using the power of the wind, and pull a long boom-tail which will absorbs oil. What makes the Protei boat prototypes so innovative is their hulls which are flexible and are made to move left and right like a fish. That movement allows the drone boat to utilize the power of the wind to the fullest and never lose power, easily pulling the heavy boom tail. Large oil spills like the Deep Water Horizon in the Mexican Gulf don't happen too often, but when they do, the effects to the environment are catastrophic. And as I already mentioned, at that point in time it's impossible for oil companies to cease oil transportation, however, they can use technology to contain the spills and counter the negative impact of the spills. For now the technology is not market-ready, but with some backing it will be there we we most need it.
  3. Most of the American public is already familiar, if only in passing, with drones and their general capabilities. We know that they’re primarily used for military purposes, whether it be surveillance or combat, and that they can be controlled remotely. However, new uses are constantly cropping up for drones in commercial settings, which is leaving many Americans slightly uneasy about their presence – an uneasiness which comes from a lack of information on the positive work drones can do. Granted, as with anything, there are better and worse sides to drones. But in some cases, the good might entirely outweigh the bad. Some of the biggest supporters of drone use are delivery services. Maybe you’ve seen the video of Amazon’s purposed drone delivery service. It would make their delivery services much quicker, efficient, and in the long run, save money and valuable resources by reducing the number of heavy, fuel-eating trucks on the road. Joining Amazon in looking into drone delivery is UPS, the world’s largest parcel service. Both companies have more than enough funds to invest in research, so it’s possible that delivery drones will be closer to reality every day. In a rather comical bid to join UPS and Amazon in the drone delivery arena, Domino’s has been supposedly testing their “DomiCopter” drone, which is a drone that would be used to deliver pizza. It’s a godsend for delivery addicts everywhere, and thinking about the number of delivery cars (who only deliver a few pizzas each round) off the road is intriguing, but Domino’s full investment doesn’t seem as likely as an Amazon or UPS drone. It isn’t all about commercial, money making drones either. There are a number of philanthropic companies looking to use drones to better our planet as well. A company on the forefront of this is Conservation Drones, who not only were able to develop a drone for only $2,000, but were also able to show its ability to survey and collect conservation data of rain forests and other wildlife habitats without disturbing them. The company caught the attention of the Mongabay corporation, whose financial support allowed them to become an official non-profit. What this means is that Conservation Drones will be able to channel even more funds into creating inexpensive drones to help protect and conserve the planet's increasingly threatened wildlife habitats. Joining them is Matternet, whose purpose is to use drones to deliver medical supplies to impoverished areas, but to also create a “physical internet” infrastructure in rural and remote areas whose only somewhat viable option today is satellite internet. Their end goal is to connect those in remote areas with the rest of the world, thus increasing their education and knowledge, and hopefully enabling them to better improve both their lives and the lives of others around them. In addition to philanthropic efforts, drones are becoming a tool used in response to emergency situations. Germany company Height-Tech has teamed with defibrillator manufacturer Schiller to create a system where defibrillators would be delivered via drone to heart attack victims when prompted by a smartphone app. The drones could fly a distance of 200 km according to Height-Tech’s website, making their use fairly localized at the moment (for now). Closer to home, drones are being used to track weather, wildfires, and other potential natural disasters. Recently, NASA teamed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Northrop Group to develop and create drones which would be used to track and monitor hurricanes. These drones would be able to reach higher altitudes than the hurricane itself, thus giving an overview of the storm that previously has been mostly unavailable. In addition to that effort, the use of drones in tracking and fighting wildfires is becoming an increasingly viable option. Since wildfires are notorious for rapidly and unexpectedly changing direction, a drone would be able to give live updates to fire officials and the public, whose lives (and the lives of the wildlife involved) may be saved by this real-time knowledge. Right now, firefighters tackling these wildfires have had to update the location of the fire themselves through tablets and smartphones. However, in more remote areas, where they have no internet or cellular connection, they’re out of luck and must rely solely on instinct and (likely) old information they've received. When it comes to drones, there are equally viable arguments both for and against their use. None of these arguments are going to be solved overnight, though generally, once a technology hits the market, it’s difficult to reverse its forward progress. It’s simply going to take time in order to see when and where drone usage will become regular, where it shouldn’t be used, and what changes need to be made for an increasingly drone friendly world. According to the Federal Aviation Agency, there is likely to be a staggering 7,500 commercial drones in the air by 2018, some of which can hopefully be put to good use.