Drones: Poised For Takeoff In The Digital Economy

Stefan Guertzgen

Drones have captured the popular imagination, making a splash on social media, in the popular press, and even on hit television shows. But drones can do a lot more than entertain. They are actually a core driver of transformation in the digital economy. Here are a few examples.

Precision farming

Using swarm intelligence, specialized drones home in on weed-infested areas to prevent invasive plants from encroaching on valuable crops. These drones can deliver pesticides only and precisely where they are needed, reducing the environmental impact and increasing crop yields. Drones can also measure soil conditions as well as health status of plants to deliver water, fertilizers, or other components to ensure optimum growth. The result is increased crop yields at lower cost and with reduced use of potentially dangerous pesticides, a concept known as digital farming.

Remote location inspection and maintenance

Pipelines, mining operations, offshore oil rigs, and railroad tracks are often located far from centers of commerce, yet it is imperative that they operate flawlessly. Drones can easily monitor even the most remote stretches and when signal repairs are needed or dangerous conditions are occurring.

Spare parts delivery

When machinery and equipment goes down, time is of the essence. Drones can quickly and efficiently deliver needed spare parts from manufacturers or 3D printers directly to the equipment’s location, saving time, preventing unnecessary downtime, and reducing investments in MRO inventory.

Military observation

Drones can keep track of weapon and troop deployments in military situations without endangering humans. They can also provide a complete view of any skirmish, creating a tactical advantage by eliminating the element of surprise.

Search and rescue

Search-and-rescue missions are expensive and time-consuming. Physical limitations such as fatigue, hunger, personal safety, and the need for light and visibility can delay or slow searches conducted by human rescuers. Drones can search wide areas under challenging conditions and instantly send data back to a central location. Once the search target is identified, rescue teams can set off with the right equipment, knowing exactly where to focus their search. This makes search-and-rescue operations faster, less costly, and more effective. Watch this video for more insight.

Scientific research

Drones can track animal migrations, report on weather patterns, and help discover rare and previously unknown plant and animal species.

Life sciences

Combining nanotechnology and drones enables technology first envisioned by science fiction in the 1960s. Tiny drones can now be injected into the body to perform potentially lifesaving tasks such as micro-surgery, clear blockages, inspect aneurisms, and deliver targeted chemotherapy drugs to cancer sites.

Drones are clearly powerful agents of change as we transform to a digital economy. In addition to the examples highlighted here, drones also play an important role in such industries as insurance risk and damage assessments, wholesale distribution and last-mile deliveries, and delivery and maintenance of essential infrastructure services such as Wi-Fi, Internet, and telephone for remote locations in emerging areas. As drone technology gets more sophisticated, industries of all types will find increasingly innovative ways to use them to increase business efficiency and bolster the digital economy.

For more on how advanced technology will impact our future, see 20 Technology Predictions To Keep Your Eye On In 2017.


About Stefan Guertzgen

Dr. Stefan Guertzgen is the Global Director of Industry Solution Marketing for Chemicals at SAP. He is responsible for driving Industry Thought Leadership, Positioning & Messaging and strategic Portfolio Decisions for Chemicals.