- As the future of work looks more digital daily, the additional uses of drones in the workplace may be more extreme than anyone could’ve imagined.
- Whether it’s investigative tasks, mobile robotics, or monitoring productivity, the opportunities are endless.
- Google’s Wing, Amazon’s Amazon Prime Air, and Walmart’s drone delivery program are already making waves.
Thanks to the advent of widespread AI tools, an influx of remote and hybrid workstyles, and a ubiquitous focus on the employee rather than the employer, working doesn’t look anything like it used to.
Considering this, the use of drones in the workspace isn’t surprising. The applications that these drones could eventually be used for, however, are surprising.
At the time of writing, drone regulations are light. Though these regulations will undoubtedly change, employers currently have several options.
Sometimes referred to as unmanned aerial systems (UAS), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), or simply, drones, these devices are already preventing workers from putting themselves in compromising or dangerous situations.
As the future of work looks more digital daily, the additional uses of drones in the workplace may be more extreme than anyone could’ve imagined. Whether it’s investigative tasks, mobile robotics, or monitoring productivity, the opportunities are endless.
What can drones do that human employees can’t?
For starters, humans are incapable of filming and surveying land in the same way that drones can. Where humans need planes, helicopters, or other vehicles to adequately film wide-lensed landscape shots, drones can film the same shots for a fraction of the cost.
In addition, many modern jobs require workers to put themselves in unsafe situations, whether it’s evaluating solar panels, climbing large windmills to identify mechanical issues, or even tracking dangerous wildlife.
Drones can handle these dangerous tasks without risking human life. Not to mention, the cost of using a drone for these situations is often cheaper than the cost of manning an entire team.
Outside of the dangerous tasks that drones can accomplish, they’re also able to work quicker and more efficiently than humans for the tasks they’ve been assigned.
Traditional shipping workers are forced to comply with the rules and regulations of the road while Google subsidiary, Wing, can circumvent these roads by utilizing drones in specific test areas.
These industries are already using drones in their daily operations
Drone use is still slowly gaining popularity, but several industries have been using the technology for years.
Some of these industries include:
- Productivity monitoring
- Inspection agencies
Despite gaining popularity in the War on Terror, drones — in some capacity — have been used as early as the First World War. Granted, the drones used a hundred years ago looked completely different, but the use of unmanned aerial systems isn’t a new development.
Recently, drones have been used to carry out aerial strikes in remote areas that American troops may have more difficulty reaching.
According to Forbes, an Israeli company called Taranis is already monitoring more than three million acres of farmland in the Midwest. Farmers can monitor their crops, identify infestations or nutrient deficiencies, and then use this information to update their crop-growing processes.
In 2018, the Supreme Court undid its 2015 decision that allowed employers to monitor employees with drones at will. The 2018 decision didn’t revoke the right to monitor employees but forced employers to have a “reason” for the monitoring.
Thanks to tools like keylogging and superzoom cameras, there’s less of a reason to use drones to monitor employees, but some businesses are still utilizing the technology.
In 2018, OSHA, a federal agency and one of the largest American regulatory bodies, issued a memorandum that allows the agency to use drones during their inspections, so long as the business they’re inspecting approves.
Needless to say, these are just a few examples of the several industries that are using drones to assist with operational duties and jobs that post potential safety concerns, but what might drone usage look like ten years from now?
How might this technology advance in the workplace?
Currently, drone technology is limited. Sure they can investigate and stream high-quality images back to companies looking for issues, but they’re incapable of solving most problems themselves.
In the future, this won’t be the case.
As the battery life, range, and autonomous capabilities of drones increase, they’ll be able to stay operational longer, and travel further, and, as AI continues advancing in congruence, they’ll be able to perform complex tasks, too.
As these complex capabilities expand, traditional office workers will likely see drones flying around their offices. Thanks to the other employee-monitoring tools, drones likely won’t become too key to productivity monitoring. Instead, they’ll likely overtake traditional shipping methods and carry delivery services inside the office as well. Drones will also likely improve office commutes as things like air taxis advance.
Google’s Wing, Amazon’s Amazon Prime Air, and Walmart’s drone delivery program are already making waves by introducing a more cost-efficient method of shipping consumer goods. As the underlying technology improves, the distances these shipping drones can travel and the weight they can carry will only increase.
Whether it’s air taxis, safety features, or regular consumer applications, drones have a lot of room to improve. A future where humans work directly with drones is more likely than many realize; the key is ensuring that our privacy and autonomy aren’t eroded by these tools.
Realistically, there’s no limit (aside from human ingenuity) to what drones may accomplish in the future of work.