Drone technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, but organizations are still only scratching the surface of what these devices can do.

For business and IT leaders who are unfamiliar with the technology, drones might seem like the domain of hobbyists or the military. But advanced features — such as high-resolution cameras, heat sensors, artificial intelligence and data analytics software — enable a variety of innovative use cases.

Here are five ways that businesses and government agencies are already using drones to complete tasks more quickly, more safely and more efficiently than humans can.

1. Search and Rescue

In cases of missing persons, rescue teams can use drones with thermal imaging cameras to search broad areas in far less time than it takes to deploy teams of human employees or volunteers. A recent study showed that drones can help to find missing persons more quickly than humans working without drones, but cautioned that planning and developing a search strategy before executing a drone flight is essential to success.

2. Inspections

It’s often said that if a job is dull, dirty or dangerous, you should consider using a drone. Inspections, of course, are often dangerous, especially for tall or hard-to-access structures such as cellphone towers, bridges or oil and gas rigs. Data analytics software adds another layer of value; by comparing images gathered at different times, these programs can quickly identify and flag any substantial changes, such as the spreading of a crack in a structure.

3. Surveying

In construction, developers are using drones to conduct site surveys. Drones give business teams the critical topographical data they need to make decisions about various sites’ potential for development and can also be used to monitor progress once construction has started. Some industry-specific data analytics platforms can even provide contextual information, such as how many beams have already been erected at a site. And drones with lifting capabilities can also be used to assist construction crews with transporting materials to higher floors.

4. Emergency Response

First responders can often benefit from having visual information before they arrive at the site of an emergency, natural disaster or unfolding incident. For instance, drones can be sent into burning buildings to assess conditions and locate people and assets before firefighters enter. Or, a drone might be deployed during a riot or active shooter scenario to provide police with a live view of ground conditions before they put themselves in harm’s way or risk worsening a situation due to a lack of information.

5. Agriculture

Farmers are using drones to quickly assess the health of their crops and livestock, and to make routine activities such as spraying more efficient. For instance, Saskatchewan-based company Precision.ai has developed drones with artificial intelligence for “spot spraying” of crops. As described in the Manitoba Co-operator, “sensors identify over 48,000 plant types as they fly over and deliver a micro-dose of herbicide to weeds, leaving surrounding plants untouched.”

To the uninitiated, drones may seem unfamiliar, complicated or even unnecessary. But that’s largely how computers were perceived just a few decades ago; now, they’re indispensable in most workplaces. For organizations willing to take the leap (often with the help of an internal evangelist or some good outside training), drones can add value immediately.

Want to learn more about how CDW can help you make better use of drones? Visit our Professional Drones page.

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