It won’t be long before drone technology becomes more integrated into our personal lives, and more lucratively into our businesses; shooting footage, delivering goods, assessing sites, and providing aid.
In the last article we broke down the various technologies employed to create a modern commercial autonomous aerial drone. In this article we will look at the various market implementations of drones in Sri Lanka and see how entrepreneur’s as well as established companies are looking to leverage this technology. We will also go through the current rules and regulations governing this technology to identify the constraints and concerns around this technology.
Thanks to leaps in mechanical and electronic image stabilization drone photography has improved significantly (P2)
Current market applications in Sri Lanka
Commercial Photography and Videography: The most common commercial market application of drones, globally, is photography and videography. In Sri Lanka many amateur and individual filmmakers have leveraged this to showcase our nation’s stunning geography and natural bounties. We suspect that such content uploaded to social media sites certainly has had an influence in the rapid rise of Sri Lanka as a travel destination, and the selection of our country as the ‘Lonely Planet Destination of the Year 2019’.
Where previously only those filmmakers or photographers sufficiently funded to hire helicopters or planes could capture these aerial shots, today many can afford the drones and the High Definition cameras required for aerial shooting. However, there are still limits to drone shooting such as the lack of lens options to get different effects, the limited continuous flight duration, and the imposed limits on the maximum altitude a drone can fly. All of which are not an issue when using helicopters or planes.
Land Survey: Drones are used for mapping terrain by both private and public organizations. The previously unavailable aerial views that drones provide, allows for an assessment of land encroachment, and erosion. Such views can be further developed to digitally map private land or even organize estates to ensure effective planting techniques are being employed. A technique called photogrammetry is applied to the images taken from the drone to stitch them together to create 3D models of the land. There is still a long way to go for the potential of this application to be realized but innovative Sri Lankan entrepreneurs, Skyeye Pvt Ltd, are leading way in offering such services to the market.
Logistics: DHL and Amazon became some of the first global companies to use aerial drones in commercial logistic applications over the last couple of years. In Sri Lanka, companies like Grasshopper, Kapruka, are taking a leaf from this play book and have begun developing a network to facilitate the P2P (Point to Point) aerial dispatch of small items, such as documents, along Sri Lanka’s coastlines.
Agriculture: In 2016 the R&D arm of Hayleys Agriculture Holdings, in collaboration with DJI training service provider Guangdong Guo-An Intelligent Aviation Technology Co. Ltd., conducted a workshop on the operation and maintenance of the DJI Agras MG-1 Agriculture Drone. Its powerful propulsion system enables the MG-1 to carry up to 10kg of liquid payloads. The combination of speed and power enables it to cover an area of 4,000-6,000 m² in just 10 minutes, which is approximately 40 to 60 times faster than manual spraying operations. The intelligent spraying system automatically adjusts the spray according to the flying speed, enabling it to maintain an even coverage, avoiding wastage and hence reducing fertilizer runoff and pollution.
The drone is dustproof, water-resistant and made of an anti-corrosive material. It also has an intelligent memory system which enables the drone to be brought back to base to refill its tank or recharge its battery and return to the saved position to resume spraying.
Reconnaissance during National Disasters: The development of drone photography has also given rise to its use in emergency situations, to evaluate damage immediately after disasters and scope the assistance needed. One important example of this was seen in the aftermath of heavy flooding in May 2018, when the Sri Lanka Red Cross used multiple aerial drones to assess the extent of flood damaged areas. Emergency relief units were able to use the information collected by these drones to identify the areas that were most severely damaged by the floods and to take the necessary emergency actions to save lives and property, faster and more efficiently than in previous disasters.
Sri Lankan drone laws need to be developed more comprehensively to help this fledgling industry (P3)
Sri Lankan Drone legislation
Sri Lankan laws pertaining to drone use is very limited at the moment. The process to register a drone is straightforward and can the forms can be found on the (CAA) website.
The only payload permitted on a drone being used by members of the general public at the moment is a camera. But both Hayleys PLC and Kapruka have obtained government permission for payloads besides a camera to further the development of their respective drone centric operations highlighted above.
Restrictions on how a drone can be used include that it cannot be flown above 100 meters and that it cannot be flown beyond the line of sight of the pilot. This of course inhibits drone applications from reaching their true potential and therefore, in order to balance security concerns with business opportunities, a more comprehensive list of laws need to be laid down for the benefit of this emerging industry.
The future of drone in Sri Lanka is very promising (P4)
Filmmakers, photographers, logisticians and surveyors have all been catapulted to new levels of effectiveness. The potential for drone use is still only growing as different industries find effective uses for their operations. It’s important that Sri Lankan companies look at this technology as a way to improve current business practices and norms in order to keep up with global competition.