Drone industry expanding rapidly
Drones make history almost every day with the tremendous growth that the field is experiencing.
Rizwan Ahmed Merchant, an upperclassman of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s computer science program with a concentration on cognitive science, has been working with the student group, Andy-X, — named after the android operating system the drones operate on — called “swarm technology.”
He and three other students presented their research at the Southeast Symposium on Contemporary Engineering Topics in New Orleans on Sept. 20. Swarm technology is used to perform distributed computing tasks, meaning multiple computers performing individual tasks to achieve a common goal.
“Some of the best examples of how we envision this technology to be used are in events such as post-hurricane relief by scouting areas looking for victims,” Merchant said. “Also, in the event of a hazardous accident with chemicals, the swarm could be responsible for moving in and cleaning up the mess, and leaving humans out of harm’s way.”
Drones are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. They are aircrafts without a human pilot on board, and are usually remotely controlled through steering by onboard computers, or auto-piloting for drones, is gaining popularity.
Drones are flying closer to home with a Baton Rouge based aerial photography and video firm, Atmosphere Aerial.
According to an article published on Nov. 10 in The Advocate, the growing Louisiana drone industry will create 1,097 jobs and gain a tax revenue of $1.44 million between 2015-2017.
Louisiana State University has also taken advantage of the aerial views.
Recently, LSU band director Roy King began using a mini, four-propeller helicopter equipped with a camera to gain a different perspective of the university’s band as they practiced.
By Google-searching “drones” on any given day, a person could find dozens of current news articles about different industries requesting approval by the Federal Aviation Administration to use drones.
On Sept. 25, the FAA announced its decision on Hollywood’s request to use the unmanned aircraft for filming. The administration also explained the procedures the production companies are expected to abide by, as well as the aviation rules from which the companies are exempt.
There is controversy in Montgomery County, Maryland over the firefighters’ plan to use drones. Last spring, the department purchased three drones, but county leaders became vocal in their opposition, stating that the benefits of drones would not outweigh privacy concerns. On Sept. 23, the county executive rejected a plan that would allow the fire department to use drones during rescue missions.
Also on Sept. 23, Business Insider reported that researchers are saving animals with drones. The drones are used mainly to give an aerial view of the animals, which allows researchers to document migration patterns, count the populations and therefore determine a species’ health. The story also states that drones deter poachers.
It is also stated in Wired, a magazine that covers how new technologies are affecting culture, reported that Facebook and Google are working on a project that will ultimately give Internet access to the two-thirds of the world that does not currently have it. The project would be conducted with solar-power drones that would fly high enough not to be affected by weather and be self-sufficient to give billions of people constant access to the Internet.
The militant Shiite group in the Middle East, Hezbollah, allegedly recently used drones to drop bombs onto a building that was being used by a group affiliated with al-Qaeda. It was the first time that a group other than a nation has employed drones in combat. Up until this point, only the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel had utilized armed drones in combat situations.
Paul Darby, Ph.D., a UL professor who is a part of the electrical and computing engineering department, is the adviser of the swarm project that Merchant and other UL students are working on.
“In my opinion, the growth of drones in the commercial sector and for commercial uses has the potential to revolutionize services in our economy,” Darby said. “This includes the potential to realize novel services to customers and for business not heretofore imagined, for example, drone ambulances, or swarms of drones to help farmers plant and monitor crops with high resolution control, or for the creation of whole new art or entertainment forms. The other side of the coin, though, must carefully monitor this technology to ensure that our rights, freedoms and public safety are not compromised or abused in the process of its exploitation.”