Commercial Drones and a Look into the Future at CES 2017

As you might expect from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), how professionals are and will be using the products and technology on display at the show isn’t exactly a focus. Instead, gadgets, driverless cars and products of questionable utility are the emphasis for the vast majority of exhibitors and attendees, and for good reason. Close to 200,000 people come to Las Vegas to catch a glimpse of the future, and while drones are absolutely part of it, the theoretical applications of UAV technology generate more excitement for most attendees than practical implementations.

dsc01368That future doesn’t come at the expense of the present though, which is why the products and exhibitors that made up the “drones” section of the floor of CES were showcasing UAVs that are geared towards consumers. Despite that, many of those same companies were also showing off products and solutions that are specifically relevant to commercial users. In fact, a few used the show to debut these commercially focused products.

At CES 2017, Yuneec announced and showed off the H520. The six-rotor platform has been designed to specifically meet the needs of commercial users. The improved flight time and propellers that have been enhanced for speed are the product’s main highlights, but it’s also compatible with three camera payload options to capture whatever info an operator needs. The CGO3+ captures 4K Ultra HD video and still images, the CGO-ET captures dual-stream recording, infrared and residual light videos, while the CGO-CI is optimized for cinematic and industrial inspection use.

dsc01310GDU showed off their foldable Byrd at CES 2017, and while the product is definitely a fit for consumers, professionals have and are making use of it as well. The two areas of special interest in this capacity are for insurance and solar inspections, as these products can be used by almost anyone to gather information in an especially efficient manner. Additionally, GDU also provided info about their soon to be released WRJ-D4A UAV System and WRJ-D6A UAV System. Both of these products have been created for commercial use. Stay turned for more info about these products.

You can also read more about the four new interchangeable camera gimbals options they announced at the show here.

We’ve already covered how and why the DV WING from DRONE VOLT is set to impact professionals working in agriculture, but the products’ presence at CES 2017 provided a much closer look at it, as well as how many different applications it might have. The compact nature, ease of use, 85-minute flight time and autonomous capabilities are just a few of the features that set it apart.

dsc01305In taking a look at what the commercial drone industry might expect to see in 2017, one of the predictions that didn’t end up making it onto the list concerned the development of the physical capacities and capabilities of drones. The Hercules 20 Sprayer, which was on display in the DRONE VOLT booth along with a few other drones designed to perform actual tasks, is a perfect illustration of the sort of technology that’s right around the corner.

The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is one of Taiwan’s largest high-tech applied research institutions, and they used CES 2017 to show off their Remotely-Operated Autonomous Drone (ROAD), which can literally be operated from across the world. I watched the team take a drone that was in a park back in Taiwan into the air, fly it around and land it on their smart charging station. The team mentioned how useful the drone could be for specific applications like change detection, and that there are numerous natural fits for it in environmental monitoring, building and solar inspections as well as law enforcement.

As ever, regulatory details and restrictions are a primary issue when it comes to things like autonomously operating a drone from almost 7,000 miles away. It’s exciting to see the technical capabilities are already there though.

dsc01357Speaking of regulation, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta not only used CES to provide everyone with an update around how drones have been integrated into the national airspace, but they even had a booth on the show floor to directly converse with and answer attendee questions. The focus of these conversations was around education regarding the sUAS Registration Service as well as the rules that apply to recreational drone use. However, the FAA did use the opportunity to mention that 16,000 people have taken the Remote Pilot Knowledge exam and nearly 90% passed.

You can watch Huerta’s full address via the video below.

 

 

 

 

dsc01213Of course, we couldn’t talk about drones at CES without mentioning DJI. As you can imagine, the company was highlighting how their products are an ideal fit for recreational and casual flyers via live demos in the drone cage. Many attendees were happy to be able to see and touch the products that have gotten the recommendation of various consumer/prosumer experts.

CES isn’t a the ideal venue to discuss how the Phantom 4 and Inspire 1 are viable for commercial use, but the Skycatch team was on hand to talk about how drones are being used in construction. It’s a topic they’re set to explore in full detail at an upcoming webinar, which will feature Kevin Grover from Stantec and Richard Lopez from Hensel Phelps.

While my focus at the event was specifically around what kind of commercial drone technology was being displayed and showcased, it’s impossible to be at CES and not be in awe of the creativity and innovations that are literally around every corner. Whether it’s devices that enable smart food management, EEG Brain control or 4D experiences, CES provides more than a look into the future. It’s a chance to take an active role in the development of that future.

Also, it’s the only place I know of where you can watch a robot both play chess and pour a cup of coffee. The future has arrived, indeed.

Check out numerous pictures below which show off what that future looks like both for drone operators and our society as a whole.

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About the Author

Jeremiah Karpowicz always envisioned a career as a screenwriter, but found the autonomy and freedom he was looking for in the digital space. He has created articles, videos, newsletters, ebooks and plenty more for various communities as a contributor and editor. He has also worked as the Executive Editor for ProVideo Coalition where he was first introduced to UAV technology. You can get in touch with him on Twitter: @jeremiahkarp

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