1. Package Delivery

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said about 86 percent of the orders the online retailer ships weigh less than 5 pounds. That’s lightweight enough to be delivered by drone. Amazon is now testing autonomous aircraft that can drop a book or a pair of shoes at your home within 30 minutes of receiving an order.

So it’s not difficult to imagine a day when you no longer have to rush out to the store in your pajamas for a quart of milk. In fact, Dominos has already begun to test drones for pizza deliveries in New Zealand. And Walmart is examining ways to deploy drones inside its warehouses to photograph and catalog inventory. The retail giant has offered few ­details on its plans, but if it used drones for transporting goods, too, it would be a game-changer: 70 percent of the U.S. population reportedly lives within 5 miles of a Walmart store.

Google’s research facility, known as Google X, launched a test program of its own in 2012. In one trial, the company has been delivering Chipotle meals to students and faculty at Virginia Tech. But rather than receiving a burrito in front of, say, a dorm, customers must place their ­orders at a local kiosk, then wait a few minutes while a drone approaches and lowers their food into a field with a rope.

So much for convenience. The point, says Blanks of Virginia Tech, is safely mastering the logistics. “Package delivery is one of the harder challenges to overcome,” he explains. “It involves operating over people, controlling multiple aircraft at once, and handling spikes in demand at certain times of day.” But if Blank’s researchers can create an effective air-­traffic-­control system, we could be looking at much more than a cure for the late-night munchies. Cutting down on the number of delivery vehicles on the ground could reduce the strain on the nation’s streets, highways, and bridges, too.

2. Agriculture

Farmers are using drones to monitor the health of their crops, pinpointing the parts of their fields that need more water, fertilizer, or pesticides. In recent years, farmers have discovered that drones are very useful for monitoring the health of their fields. “It would cost me a couple hundred dollars an hour for a plane or helicopter,” says fourth-generation grain and apple farmer Jeff VanderWerff. “With my [DJI] Phantom 3 drone, a ­device I paid $1,200 for, I can fly it every day.”

When he gets a commercial license, he plans to put the craft to use on the family’s 1,800-acre Michigan grain farm. Aerial imagery from a drone equipped with an NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) camera could help him accurately estimate the yield of a crop in July, rather than waiting until harvest in October. With special software he could analyze that imagery, spotting crops beset by diseases, weeds, and flooding while there’s still time to save them. And he could then use the drone to efficiently apply fertilizers and pesticides.

At the moment, he has to use a giant crop sprayer to treat the entire field. “With drone technology,” he says, “I’m going to determine exactly where the problem exists and apply pesticide to that area alone. Rather than 80 acres, I might treat just 15.” That means fewer pesticides on the food, lower fuel use and emissions, and more healthy plants at harvest time.

3. Photos and Videos

“If you want a moment to look epic,” Parker Gyokeres says, “hire a drone.” As a photographer in the Air Force, he once built a drone from scratch, outfitting it with a GoPro camera, because he could not persuade anyone to take him up in a helicopter. Today he owns a fleet of autonomous aircraft in New York that he uses to shoot projects as ­varied as BMW commercials, corporate events, and weddings (including the nuptials of U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y.).

The soaring panoramas captured by drones are compelling enough to have made their way into movies such as “Captain America: Civil War,” “Spectre,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” as well as CNN’s coverage of the earthquakes in Italy and Ecuador a year ago. Real ­estate agents and travel hot spots are embracing the technology, too, to promote their scenic offerings. And now that drones can be programmed to follow their owners, they’re even more likely to turn up in the air above cyclists, skiers, surfers, hikers, and kayakers.

4. Humanitarian Aid

Some 1.3 billion to 2.1 billion people on the planet don’t have access to essential medicines, the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion says, often because they live in hard-to-reach places. To address that concern, California drone maker Zipline signed a deal with the government of Rwanda last February to shuttle supplies to remote areas on demand.

With “Zip” drones, which cover a roughly 50-mile radius, a health center in Rwanda can send a text message to order blood for a patient with severe malaria-related anemia and it shows up via parachute within 40 minutes. “We are already delivering more than 40 percent of the transfusions for the entire country,” says Zipline founder Keller Rinaudo. “These are cases where, if bad roads or lack of supply prevents deliveries, people die.”

Similar efforts involving organizations such as UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders and the companies Matternet and Vayu are already underway in Malawi, Madagascar, and Papua New Guinea. Even certain remote locales in the U.S. will soon benefit from such services. Last August, the Obama administration announced that it would partner with private-sector firms to begin testing the idea on Maryland’s Smith Island, Washington’s San Juan Islands, and Nevada’s Pyramid Lake Tribal Health Clinic.

5. Safety Inspections

Drones are exceedingly effective at finding structural flaws, not only because they can quickly and efficiently take high-resolution images and laser scans but also because they can get up close in treacherous spaces, such as the underside of an offshore drilling rig or the top of a cell tower. Boeing’s drone-making subsidiary Insitu is working with BNSF Railway to test rail-inspection possibilities in New Mexico. “If there was a lot of rain overnight,” says Jon ­Damush, the company’s vice president and general manager, “we could send an unmanned sentry out before the first train of the day and see if there was a washout.”

With a waiver to the flight rules that prevent drones from flying beyond the pilot’s view, the technology could one day be deployed to spot-check roads, bridges, pipelines, dams, and other public works. That could allow for better use of limited tax dollars. “Even with the same amount of funding, with better information workers can be deployed to the places where they’re most needed,” says Thomas Haun of PrecisionHawk, which offers drones and data services to energy companies, utilities, and construction firms. In the U.S., a country with a D+ infrastructure rating (according to the American Society of Civil Engineers), that’s no small thing.

6. Insurance

“Let’s say a hailstorm rolls through Texas and damages 2,000 roofs in its wake,” says Dan Burton, founder of DroneBase, an Uber-like service that connects businesses with independent drone pilots. “We could go take some pictures and then say, ‘Based on the damage to this roof, there’s a 98 percent chance you will pay a claim. On this other one, it’s 80 percent.’ ”

With that in mind, most of the major insurance companies are now experimenting with drones, some by hiring outside contractors, others by sending out aircraft of their own. If you’re a claims adjuster, it saves you time and money, and reduces the risks of climbing ladders and walking on damaged roofs. But if you’re the customer, that might not translate to lower insurance premiums. “I doubt the savings will be passed on to consumers,” says Skylogic Research’s Snow. But those reductions in inspection time could lead to quicker settlements, and the detailed documentation in the aerial photos feasibly could aid with disputed claims.

7. Internet Access

Well over half the planet’s population—some 4 billion people—currently has no internet access. A full 1.6 billion live in areas too remote for mobile broadband. That means no Facebook, of course, but also no email, no world news, no information and instruction from YouTube, and no access to online commerce. And without a huge investment in satellites and cell towers, that’s mighty difficult to change. Google has floated a plan to fix the problem by relaying internet signals via a network of giant, high-altitude balloons, but the company is also reportedly looking into drones as a solution. Facebook is headed that way, too.

In the latter company’s vision, a series of lightweight drones with the wingspan of a Boeing 737 will cruise high above normal airspace delivering connectivity to people within a 60-mile radius. Powered by batteries and solar ­energy, they will remain aloft for three months at a time. The company can’t say when the project will be operational—“significant advancements in science and technology will be needed,” a spokesperson says—but last June a full-scale prototype (shown at the top of this article) made a successful test flight of more than 90 minutes over southern Arizona.

8. Wildlife Conservation

In recent years, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts have used drones to monitor the health of humpback whales off the coast of Cape Cod, even capturing from their blowholes breath samples flush with DNA that can be analyzed for wildlife studies. The U.S. Geological Survey has also dispatched them to observe sandhill cranes in Colorado. But to date, the tech’s most profound contribution to wildlife protection might be unfolding in Africa, where drones are policing vast tracts of land to catch poachers hunting rhinos and elephants. The horns and tusks of those animals can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars from Asian crime syndicates.

Instead of having park rangers go out after dark to try to catch the heavily armed bandits, drone pilots patrol the targeted areas with their aircraft, collecting data used to predict the poachers’ movements. “We look at the patterns of how the animals move because that dictates how poachers move,” says Bowling Green State University professor Thomas Snitch, who is working to refine the approach. “We keep track of water sources because the animals have to get water every day.”

That information is then cross-referenced with factors such as the weather and time of the month—because, for instance, well-lit full-moon nights are particularly dangerous.


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GRAND MARSH - When Joe Paul and Megan and Eric Wallendal talk shop, it's in the language of fertilizers and nutrients. They're talking about their crops and the current status of their fields. And as they do, they reference the image files collected by a drone flying over the cornfields at Wallendal Farms. 

The Wallendals are focused on growing the food, while Paul's three-foot fixed-wing drone flies over their fields, gathering crop information that will help the farmers make important business and production decisions.  The drone “gives producers a whole new view of their operation," Paul said. They see things in a new way from the sky.

Paul grew up on a family farm in New Lisbon, a Juneau County city of about 2,500. As a young man, he lived in several states and became a flight instructor. But about five years ago he returned to the family farm. The farm was sold in August 2016 and a few months later Paul launched his new drone-based agriculture imaging and data service, FlightSight, as a way to meld his passions for aviation and farming. 

At 27, Paul is the kind of young professional many in Wisconsin are trying to keep here. After years of working on his traditional flight career in places like Michigan, Arizona, and San Diego, he's back in the county where he grew up and where his family lives. “Being in the country and seeing the food being produced, there’s a real satisfaction with growing a good crop,” he said. “We no longer own a farm, but to be able to be in the business and involved in agriculture, it feels good.” 

State agencies and agribusiness advocates have been working to get young people to look at careers in the industry, pointing to science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. Jobs in the industry can range from working with animal genetics and agronomy to other professional skills like accounting, marketing and sales.

And now, drone operator.

The number of farmers, and farmers, has been shrinking in the state and nation for decades. Wisconsin had 68,900 farms in 2015, 100 fewer than the year before — and 7,600 fewer than 2005, according to state figures. Even with a diminishing number of farms, agriculture has an annual economic impact of about $88.3 billion in the state.

For hands-on farming, new farmers face high start-up costs: equipment, land rent, animals and ongoing costs for things like fertilizer, fuel and seed can make going into the field a daunting task for farmers who didn’t grow up with family in the business.  Adding to all those factors, a diminishing number of young people have a direct connection to a farm, unlike in decades past, when grandparents or other relatives may have owned a farm.


On a sunny day in late June, Paul is on edge of a deep green cornfield growing from the sandy soil of central Wisconsin. After programming the flight pattern of the drone on a laptop on the front seat of his van, he picks up the black vehicle walks into an open area. Holding the drone at waist height, he gives it three shakes to tell it's time to fly, then takes a few fast steps and casts the tool skyward, its small engine emitting a high-pitched whine as it takes off into the sky. Another day at work in the ag sector.


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The five drones at the Bingham Canyon mining operation are the result of a four-year effort by the company to boost employee safety and provide enhanced capabilities of surveying one of the world's largest open-pit mines.

"The potential we can unlock with these is only limited by the imagination," said David van Hees, drone programs lead for Rio Tinto Kennecott.

Drone pilots go through rigorous certification offered by an aviation company, and each pilot conducts preflight safety checks. Multiple flights lasting about 18 minutes happen daily, and each pilot works with two spotters who measure wind speed and look for potential aerial hazards.

The drones provide a visual record of the mining operations that minimizes risks to workers — checking out potential problems in place of having a worker perform the task.

"Having a drone in that spot instead of a worker eliminates any risks or hazards for employees," said Matt Key, chief drone pilot who also trains other employees who want to become pilots. Steve Richards is a surveyor who never dreamed he'd be one day using drones to enhance what he does in the field.

"They provide us an opportunity we didn't have before," he said. "From a safety perspective, you can't beat it."

Surveyors like Richards are able to collect actual spatial data from above, taking advantage of technology that reduces the amount of time on the ground. In many instances, surveying projects that could last for weeks don't take nearly as long. Globally, drones in mining operations are becoming increasingly common. They are used for mapping, mineral exploration and tracking stockpiles.


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Drones can map large areas of habitat for the ecology sector, which can save a substantial amount of time and money for clients.

Using Drones to help survey large areas quickly and provide a bird’s eye view of the landscape below is shaking up the industry and improving the way in which some of the traditional and time-consuming work is now done.

A specialist team at ecology consultancy, Thomson Ecology, has been doing exciting work in the ecology sector as they use Drones to look at how they can benefit business efficiency and create more useful in-depth information for clients. They are appropriately qualified and certified to use Drones commercially and work alongside ecologists on site helping to map large areas of terrain and topography for ecology purposes.

The team recently worked with Essex & Suffolk Water using Drones on an exciting and innovative project which mapped 269 hectares of land across Norfolk, including Trinity Broad, from above and gave Essex & Suffolk Water data which they could share with their whole team and use for future comparisons of habitat changes.

The team at Thomson Ecology has combined this drone technology with their own bespoke interactive mapping system,  TIM (Thomson Interactive Mapping), which allows the high-resolution drone imagery to be overlaid with habitat mapping, allowing clients to track habitat changes over a period of time.

drone-based surveys, such as those carried out for Essex & Suffolk Water, involve a lot of planning with steps that need to be followed to ensure the safe and successful acquisition of data, whether it is still imagery, film or other information.  A flight plan must be put together and checks done on the area to be surveyed to check it is not in restricted airspace.  All relevant permissions must be sought in advance and weather forecasts checked to ensure flying conditions are suitable.  Once those preparatory steps have been taken, work can start. The work at Trinity Broad for Essex & Suffolk Water took place in mid-winter so the team had to watch carefully for a suitable weather window before they could fly.  After a final review of the site to check for any flying constraints missed during remote mapping of the area, the flight plan was finalised, the flight team briefed and the survey was able to start.

This particular flight mainly consisted of identifying the areas to be flown and establishing an appropriate flight height, speed and pattern. Autonomous systems within the drone dealt with a lot of the flight handling and control, while the pilot and other members of the flight team monitored the progress of the flight and kept a close watch for any potential incursions into the flight area both on the ground and in the air.

The Trinity Broads survey area was large so the team repeated their flight plan many times over the course of a week.  An extra complication arose from the occasional need to launch and land the drone from a boat when surveying large areas of water. With the surveys completed and the captured imagery safely stored on the company servers, just over four and a half thousand individual aerial images were merged into a single, geo-referenced image suitable for mapping and habitat identification.

With the aerial imagery processed and merged into the large-scale images, the final step was to produce habitat maps. For this particular survey, the habitat mapping was primarily focused on a section of the Broad rather than the whole site. To a large extent, the habitat mapping was undertaken using manual identification and digitisation directly from the aerial imagery, though where possible and appropriate, image recognition software and automated processes were employed to speed things up.


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Hire an expert like Chris to showcase your listings optimally 

A professional drone operator will:

1. Be certified by CASA and insured with public liability insurance
2. Have lots of experience shooting properties
3. Be able to quickly ascertain what kind of shots will show the property in its best light
4. Operate the drone safely and with enough creative skill to present the home optimally
5. In most cases be able to re-touch images and edit the video into a final set of professional media for the listing

The risks of going with a non-professional:

1. Much more likely to crash the drone, putting people and property at risk.
2. Non-CASA certified/approved operators are not able to get insurance, posing a significant business risk to your agency.
3. More likely to get shaky shots, blurry images and not deliver the final files on time. 

Why drone shots are on the rise in real-estate

The 'zoomed out' perspective that a drone provides allows the drone operator to bring all of the surrounding features into one shot – the gardens, pool, tennis court or granny flat. A well edited aerial video of a property, with fitting background music can inspire a potential buyer much more so than a regular video.

Aerial shots allow you to confirm the condition of the roof, fence lines, large trees and other property features that are difficult to see from the ground.

Drone shots also show what the drive home or the kids’ walk to school looks like, the drone operator can go up to 400 feet and catch shots of the neighbourhood and surrounding area. Later they can overlay graphics to show the number of km’s to local schools, train stations, hospitals, parks and shopping centres.

Make sure your drone operator knows all the rules set out by CASA and has downloaded this easy-to-use app illustrating where they are not allowed to fly.

Find a drone operator near you with Drones for Hire - Australia's largest directory of CASA approved drone operators.


5 Drone Moves For Getting Cinematic Aerials

In this 7-min video (see below) we discuss the following 5 simple but amazingly cinematic drone moves. They are simple, can be done on all drones, and require no intelligent flight modes.

1: The Tilt Reveal
2: The Overtake
3: The Coming Into Shot
4: The Crane/Jib
5: The Bird's Eye View

With just a small understanding of these basic filmmaking concepts, you can create stunning aerial cinematography and learn to fly like a filmmaker. 

Used in the right way, you will be amazed at the professional and cinematic results you can achieve with these shots. In other videos we discuss the benefits of using DJI's intelligent flight modes, however, these shots can be done with no intelligent flight modes and with virtually no pilot skill. Whether you are flying a DJI Phantom, Mavic, Inspire or you are an experienced drone pilot flying full-on cinema gear, a basic understanding of filmmaking and storytelling can transform the quality of your aerial cinematography.

Drone Film Guide is produced by video production company, Captain Cornelius (, based in Scotland.


As an early adopter, Eddie has done a lot of drone work at events as well as other commercial and creative work with drones so we wanted to give you some insight into how drones and events can go together and what to look out for and what to inspire your events with! (Hint: to see some of the amazing work that can be done with drones, check out the Flying Robot international Drone Film Festival, which Eddie is the founder of).


What are some of the main types of drone shots that are most useful in the events industry?

A couple drone shots that work well for events are the orbit and the dronie. An orbit is where you circumnavigate around a point of interest with the drone’s camera fixed inward. It’s a cinematic way of showcasing a particular venue or event.

Dronies are always fun, which are essentially drone based selfies. A dronie begins as a close-up of one or more people and zooms (flies) out to an extremely wide shot that showcases the venue and the surrounding area, such as a cityscape or mountains.

What are some innovative uses of drones you’ve done and/or would love to do?

Some uses outside of aerial photography are in Film and TV. This is something that is becoming more commonplace in small business promotion. For pure fun, flying or racing mini-quads is always a hit. When it comes to racing drones and making movies there are people that are a lot better at it than me, which is one reason I started a film festival specifically for drone-based filmmakers.

What are some misconceptions about drones and drone use?

A big misconception some people have is that you can just pick up a drone and start flying. Drones are definitely easier to operate than ever before, but there are safety considerations and laws in place regarding where and when one can fly. 

There are many places where it’s unsafe and illegal to fly a drone which could land a naive drone pilot in hot water. If you plan on making money with your drone, you have to become CASA certified That requires understanding regulations, airspace classes, sectional maps and understanding aviation weather reports among other things. Getting your certification is a requirement for any sort of commercial work, including simply monetizing your online drone videos with ads.

How did you get into using drones?

I jumped down the drone rabbit hole four years ago after watching a friend shoot a beautiful short summer video at conference event in Palm Springs. When I  saw the resulting video I was hooked. I soon pieced together my own camera drone rig with a GoPro, motorized gimbal and video downlink system. Back then, there was no all-in-one solution like is common with today’s drones, you had to piece together the components to build your aerial photography platform. I brought my rig to Burning Man in 2013, resulting in a video that clocked up almost 2 million views in a week.

What do you see coming as trends and evolutions of drones and drone usage?

Consumer drones will continue to become smaller, cheaper, smarter and safer. DJI, the undisputed leader in the consumer drone space, has just released their smallest and cheapest drone yet.  It can be completely controlled through gestures. I see more autonomous features and AI being integrated as drones continue to evolve.


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We are all hearing about how drones can play a vital role in precision agriculture efforts to ensure better decisions are made throughout the growing season. Whether it's for compiling plant counts, assessing crop damage, detecting parasites and fungi, or planning drainage and irrigation repair, the below 2 drones are a good starting point. 

If you are curious about having some drone test flights on a section of your land, tryDrones For Hire - the largest online community of drone operators in Australia. You may also be interested in this article: 6 ways farmers are using drones in 2017

The SenseFly eBee SQ

This one is a 'fixed-wing' design. It can fly for much longer distances at a time than the quad-copter but needs to be moving forward continuously to sustain flight. SenseFly are very highly regarded in this industry. 

Great for
Generating NDVI maps of your crops - the sensor can determine crop variability using
the plant health algorithm called the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI).

Notable features
Can scan up to 500 acres per flight. 
Designed specifically for agriculture use.
Built-in multispectral sensor. 
55 min flight time, 3 km range, 100 kph. 
FMIS compatible.

The DJI Mavic ($1569)
This one is a 'quad-copter' design. It can hover in a fixed position for taking photos and can take-off and land just about anywhere. The Mavic is generally regarded as the best quad-copter available today regarding its versatility, features, and price. 

Great for
-Getting a general bird’s eye view of your crop 
-Checking fencing, sheep/cattle, water troughs
-Spotting feral pigs   

Notable features
Very compact – throw it in the passenger’s seat of the ute. 
Long range: flys up to 7km away, and for about 24 mins. 
Way-point navigation support.
Good 4K camera (higher definition than HD) with image stabilization.
But not very stable in winds higher than 20kph and not water resistant.
See video review


This vaulted arch bridge in Magdeburg, Germany was completed in 1882. In 2016 a drone operator reproduced it in 3D in less than 2 hours.


1. Quick and safe data acquisition by drone operator with zero traffic interference.  

2. 3D reconstruction including decorative elements, true to scale. 

3. Accuracy <.5mm, 40 images, 34 million points (point cloud). 


Precise construction plans for damage detection, documentation and deformation monitoring of the bridge.

Drone used

The AscTec Falcon 8. German made, designed for commercial inspection work Specs


1. For encompassing aerial views of their entire property and land - the 'zoomed out' perspective allows the drone operator to bring all of the surrounding features into one shot – the gardens, pool, tennis court or granny flat. A well edited aerial video of a property, with fitting background music can inspire a potential buyer much more so than a regular video.

2. For confirming the condition of the roof, fence lines, large trees and other property features that are difficult to see from the ground.

3. To show what the drive home or the kids’ walk to school looks like, the drone operator can go up to 400 feet and catch shots of the neighbourhood and surrounding area. Later they can overlay graphics to show the number of km’s to local schools, train stations, hospitals, parks and shopping centres.

4 things your drone operator must not do

1. Fly at night (unless they have a special exemption)
2. Fly in or through cloud or fog 
3. Fly over populous areas such as beaches or heavily populated parks
4. Fly higher than 121 
metres (400 feet) above the ground 

Watch 1 min safety video

Make sure your drone operator knows all the rules set out by CASA and has downloaded this easy-to-use app illustrating where they are not allowed to fly.

Find a drone operator near you with Drones for Hire - Australia's largest directory of CASA approved drone operators.