By Nigel Hilton

One of the weirdest things about the modern cultural attitude towards drones is that we’ve taken this incredibly powerful, interesting technology, and the main association that the vast majority of people have towards it is “oh that’s the thing that Amazon are going to use to deliver my packages now!” It might sound dramatic, but that’s like saying, “oh, a truck! That’s the thing that sells ice-cream!” without ever thinking about all of the thousand other uses for it. But in reality, drones are being used in interesting, creative, and useful ways every single day. Here are just a few examples of the ways that drones are for more than just dumping a package on your doorstep.

Geo-mapping

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Drones can reach geographical locations that would otherwise be close to inaccessible, like coastlines and mountaintops. They’re able to achieve some incredibly high-resolution data which can be turned into detailed 3D maps. The data that’s collected is often shared on open source mapping platforms so that everyone can benefit from this technology, not just specialists and professionals. 3D maps created from drone imagery were used, for example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy by farmers and miners.

Racing

From something scientific to something a little more high energy. Yes, drone racing is a thing, and it’s awesome! There’s even a full-blown drone racing league. It’s certainly not something that’s perfect for anyone picking up a drone’s control for the very first time, but the races can be seriously adrenaline pumping affairs. Racing drones are very different from the kind of things that you’d expect from standard drones so check out Andrew Nixon’s racing drone guide to see what to look for it this sort of thing seems like your cup of tea. There are various skill levels so, with a bit of practice, it shouldn’t take long before you’re ready to start racing too.

Storm tracking

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One of the tricky things about trying to track and monitor a storm is that you often have to get pretty close to it in order to do that. That, unsurprisingly, presents a certain amount of risk. Thankfully drones can do just that without issue. Drones are able to go right into the very heart of a storm without any risk to human life so that they can monitor and track it’s progress, allowing for a much greater understanding of what it’s going to do next.

Wildlife preservation

There are those who assume that tech like drones is yet another sign of technology invading and pushing the natural world aside but the truth couldn’t be more different. Drones are often used to carefully monitor wildlife population in areas that humans wouldn’t be able to go without spooking the animals. Not only that but drones are often used to deter poachers as they can capture high-resolution images which can lead to poachers being identified and caught. The only thing that’s more effective than the use of drones is getting people out there in those areas every day which is both inconvenient and expensive. The drones allow authorities to monitor the condition of various wildlife populations more easily and effectively than ever before.

Search and rescue

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And it’s not just the lives of animals that drones are out there saving. Drones are being used by search and rescue to teams to access areas that would be close to impossible to reach by any normal means. The first person to have their life saved by a drone was a man in Saskatchewan, Canada who had been in a car accident. The man wandered off, and emergency services were unable to find him, so a drone was sent out and located the man using thermal sensing technology. If the drone had not found him, he likely would have died in the freezing cold after the sun went down. This was the first time this happened, but it won’t be the last. As drone technology becomes more and more advanced, it’s going to start making some changing the way that authorities search for people since they can cover large amounts of difficult terrain very quickly without any issue.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that drones are only good for military use or delivering your mail, you can remind them that there are people out there using them for fun, for education, for conservation, and even to save lives. Not only that but the list of positive ways that people are using drones is only going to grow.