Get Regular Updates!
Search

Tech

Diary of a drone pilot

Diary of a drone pilot

From wedding photography to mining surveys, drone operators believe the sky’s the limit.

Diary of a drone pilot

Two years ago, Global Drone Solutions Chief Executive Mahmood Hussein and his staff compiled a list of 150 roles for drone pilots.

It featured everything from real estate photography to parcel delivery, weed spraying to pit wall inspections.

Today, Mahmood thinks he could probably double that figure.

“I could reel off hundreds of these applications,” he says. “There’s new ones being found every day.”

One example is a farmer Mahmood has trained to use drones instead of helicopters to muster cattle.

He says the farmer attached a thermal camera to the drone to count the cattle in each paddock. The drone’s heat signature can detect if animals are pregnant or sick – something a chopper can’t do.

School of the air

On the morning Mahmood talks to Particle, he has a group starting a remote pilot’s licence course.

His students typically come from mining, construction, photography and the media industry.

Over 5 days, they’ll study aerodynamics, navigation, batteries, airspace regulations, meteorology, human factors, risk assessment, radio operations and mission planning.

Mahmood has also teamed up with South Metro TAFE to offer high school students their remote pilot’s licence as part of a Certificate III in Aviation.

The tipping point

Mahmood says there hasn’t always been this level of demand from people wanting to join the industry.

Ten years ago, very few people were interested in flying drones for commercial purposes, thanks in part to stringent laws requiring professional drone operators to hold a full recreational pilot’s licence, he says.

In 2013 when the laws were relaxed, professional drone flying began gaining popularity.

Another tipping point came a couple of years later, Mahmood says.

“Around 2015 or 2016, the prices [of drones] came down quite dramatically,” he says.

“[That’s] due to the miniaturisation of components used in smart phones … that are also used in drones. For instance, the camera and the GPS.”

Taking off

Mahmood says many companies are starting to think of drones as a useful tool, rather than a toy.

Video|YouTube: CNN Business
CNN’s coverage of Google’s Project Wing + Mexican food chain Guzman Y Gomez making drone deliveries to homes in Australia.

“Now you can buy an exceptionally good, entry-level commercial drone for about $2500, and that can go up to $40,000 or $50,000,” he says.

“The average price for a really good commercial drone is about $12,000 at the moment.”

The artificial intelligence dream team

Of all the applications for drones, Mahmood is most excited about artificial intelligence.

“Engineers are working on algorithms to allow drones to fly autonomously around buildings or other objects,” he says.

“You’ve also got what’s called ‘detect and avoid’, so aircraft like drones can see there’s a building or a person in front of them, and they will take action to avoid that.

“And then on top of that, you’ve got machine learning.”

That’s the science of creating algorithms that can learn from data or observations without relying on rules-based programming.

Drones can be programmed to conduct the same flight, such as mine surveys, again and again.

They can also be programmed to identify shapes and used to detect objects like sharks in the water.

“It’s surrounded by all this high-tech … that’s what makes it so exciting,” Mahmood says.

We love science puns VIDEO

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?