Small, light duty remotely controlled (RC) drones(1) that fly at a height between 20 and 200 ft. may perform a large number of useful tasks quickly and relatively cheaply. Here's a partial list of the things that can be done by a $5,000 multi-rotor drone that can lift 2 to 4 kg (4 to 10 lb):
Infrastructure Services (2)
- Assess road and bridge surface condition with 3D mapping that is far easier than deploying expensive custom profilometers on specialized vehicles.
- Inventory and condition of road and highway signs, signals, lane markings and barriers.
- Remote assessment of tree growth, land slide slopes and condition, rock outcrops along highways.
- Detailed external inspection of newly delivered projects such as roads, bridges, buildings, etc.
- External inspection of pipelines.
- Inspection of utility lines.
- Harbor patrol and inspections for leaks, etc.
- Area monitoring of air quality: traffic, chemical, other leaks.
- Traffic management at the site of an incident with no or poor CCTV coverage.
- Rapid regional land surveys and photogrammetry (i.e., centimeter accuracy GoogleEarth).
- Extra live capture of events such as surfing, racing, skiing and other sports where camera placement is challenging. (Example of 2013 RallyX near Honolulu.)
- Real estate, architectural, promotional and educational videos.
- Spraying of crops and fertilizers -- used in Japan for over 20 years; see picture above.
- Wildlife monitoring and rounding of livestock.
- Remote sensing for archaeology, minerals, other resources.
- Police, security and similar quick-deployment surveillance that deploys from the trunk of a police vehicle, and supplements helicopter surveillance.
- Remote sensing and discovery of lost hikers, avalanche victims, etc.
- Quick emergency supply drop before "big help" can be mobilized, if necessary.
Notes (1): Some call them Personal UAVs -- (2): See additional discussion: Researchers Have High Hopes for Drone Use in Transportation