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Use cases: The many IoT applications of drones

Drones are a capitivating IoT example

According to a report from retail research firm NPD group, sales of drones have more than tripled over the last year, reaching around $200 million in sales. The increasing interest in using these aerial devices is one of the best illustrations of how lower prices and the demand for connectivity is driving the internet of things. For drones, better and cheaper MEMS sensors (accelerometers, gyros, magnetometers, and often pressure sensors), small GPS modules, powerful processors and a number of digital radios have pushed the controversial devices into the mainstream market.

The potential uses of these once-niche products is being experimented in a number of sectors. With great spatial data such as orthomosaic maps, elevation models, contours, profiles and volumes derived from processing imagery that is now easy to collect with drones, it becomes possible to bring decision-making process on a new level in a range of industries, according to GIS Cloud. Here are several use cases for drones by industry.

Drone use cases:


source: IowaPublicTelevision/Youtube
source: IowaPublicTelevision/Youtube

Agriculture is in the middle of a revolution of sorts, brought on by technology that is increasing yield while decreasing production costs. It’s all part of precision agriculture, a move to give farmers never-before achieved visibility over their assets. For some farmers, drones are already playing a major part in increasing revenue.

Precision Drone provides a comprehensive list of uses for drones to help farmers quickly increase their return on investment (ROI).

  • Increase Yields
    • Find potentially yield limiting problems in a timely fashion.
  • Save Time
    • While all farmers know the value of scouting their crops few actually have time to cover the acres on foot.
  • Ease of use
    • UAV products can be very complex to set-up and operate, but with our preset standards we allow new operators to have confidence in operating from the beginning.
  • Integrated GIS mapping
    • Draw field borders for flight pattern
  • Crop Health Imaging
    • Seeing the true health of your field in a color contrast allows you to see how much sunlight is being absorbed by the crop canopy.
  • Failsafe – The Drone Flies Home
    • As an added safety net with the flip of switch your Precision Drone will return to its original takeoff location
  • Low-cost aerial camera platform
    • A drone’s software plans the flight path, aiming for maximum coverage of the vineyards and controls the camera to optimize the images for later analysis.

When compared with satellite imagery, using drones is a much cheaper options, while providing higher resolution images. And according to MIT Technology Review, it’s also much cheaper than crop imaging with a manned aircraft, which can run $1,000 an hour. Farmers can buy the drones outright for less than $1,000 each.


Energy management is becoming more and more critical as developing countries advance their infrastructure. Drones can do dangerous jobs otherwise preformed by humans that allows for expedited maintenance on infrastructure.

Duke Energy, out of North Carolina, has been granted permission by the Federal Aviation Administration to test drone technology at the Marshall Steam Station in Sherrills Ford, North Carolina. The company is looking at how drones could help better survey power lines, solar facilities and other operational equipment

“What we’re really doing is testing the technology to see what kind of application it would have for Duke Energy,” Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless told the Charlotte Observer. “Right now we’re finding that surveying transmission lines and looking at the panels on a solar farm can make repairs cheaper and faster.”

Drones are also inspecting large boilers at power plants, monitoring the health of panels on solar farms and assessing damage after storms.

Construction site

The industrial internet of things is developing quickly on construction sites around the world. Construction sites present IoT with a number of fixable problems including dangerous working conditions and lost items or machinery. Here is a list of ways drones can enhance construction site operations, according to Dronethusiasts.

source: M7 Aerial/Youtube
source: M7 Aerial/Youtube


You can use drones to quickly survey your job site and build maps. Instead of using human resources, heavy machinery & expensive surveying tools, that produce complex data, you can get the job done in half the time & money, with greater accuracy.

Showing Clients the Progress

When clients stay away from the job site and cannot afford to come to the site again & again & your current pictures are just not doing justice, drones can be an inventive way to keep them happy. Just be sure to cover only those areas that are in good progress

Monitoring Job Sites

When you have to frequently shuttle between multiple job sites, or have taken up simultaneous renovation & facelift for multiple properties; putting up a drone to monitor the progress, work, safety standards and much more can save you a lot of energy, time & money.

Inspecting Structures

Instead of employing heavy software, lots of people and relying on complex readings, you can employ a drone to get a first hand view of how solid your structures are, how aesthetically pleasing they are coming up, and where they are moving out of the plan, all in a jiffy.


Transmission and distribution (T&D), or power grid, operators and utilities across the globe are beginning to look toward UAVs to reduce costs, improve safety, and increase reliability and response times across their systems.

T&D workers have traditionally performed line inspections and maintenance, storm damage assessments, and vegetation management using line crews, helicopters, and third-party inspection services companies. Drones present an alternative to the high-cost and dangerous work done by T&D operators, while having the potential to offer many additional benefits. The value proposition for T&D utilities to complete at least a portion of their inspections, maintenance, and damage assessments via UAVs and robotics is strong; with more than 50 companies now in the market, consolidation and large-scale growth are expected. According to Navigant Research, global annual DRTD revenue is expected to grow from $131.7 million in 2015 to $4.1 billion in 2024.


source: CNN/Youtube
source: CNN/Youtube

Domino’s Pizza in New Zealand has successfully demonstrated a flying drone that can transport pizza, and the chain will partner with a drone delivery company called Flirtey to make the service available to customers later this year, according to the Guardian.

Much more importantly, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are already being field-tested for medical uses in remote parts of the world. Drones successfully delivered small aid packages after the Haitian earthquake in 2012, and in Papua New Guinea, Doctors Without Borders used them to transport dummy TB test samples from a remote village to the large coastal city of Kerema, according to Mayo Clinic.

Oil and gas

Another industry that presents potential dangers for its workers, oil and gas can benefit from using drones by monitoring locations for gas emissions, oil spills and damage that would otherwise be difficult and dangerous to reach:

  • Flare stacks
  • oil pipelines
  • offshore oil platforms


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