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From package deliveries to indoor inspections, drone industry gaining speed

Posted at 7:08 PM, Nov 23, 2021

Your next package delivery or home inspection could be completed using drones. More and more companies are finding solutions using the technology, including Zipline.

“We take the box. We coordinate with the customer directly to ensure the delivery window is when they want it to occur. And then we fly it over and drop it usually into their backyard or their front yard,” Liam O’Connor, the chief operating officer at Zipline, said. Zipline is a development and delivery company for drone serial logistics. They most recently partnered with Walmart on drone delivery.

“We ultimately decided it would be best to work in Northwest Arkansas together, so, over the course of the past spring, we built our facility,” O’Connor said. “Now we are in a place where we are actually starting to deliver real things to real people.”

This is just one example of how the drone industry is expanding into other parts of our lives and continues to grow exponentially.

“We saw the use of drones kind of skyrocketing,” Kyle Hirshkind, program manager at the University of New Hampshire Drone Academy, said. “We’ve seen pretty much every year the industry explode a little bit more, and that brings more to our end and what we can do and what we can train people to do.”

They’ve seen interest from real estate to agriculture and law enforcement. And these companies focused on drone solutions are looking at more than just outdoors.

“Started the company to basically solve the problem of how do you get into confined spaces or dirty, dangerous environments without having to send people in there,” Omar Eleryan, the CEO of Cleo Robotics, said. Cleo Robotics recently made the Dronut -- the first commercially available indoor drone with ducted bi-rotors that’s highly maneuverable in indoor spaces.

“What we settled on is this technology that's been around for about 70 years, which is called ducted fan drones. Still a drone, but it's a much safer, much more compact, more capable drone,” he said.

Eleryan said it’s easy to use and can be used for several purposes, from inspection to active shooter situations.

“It could be used on factory floors for inspecting goods,” he said. “It can be used in warehousing to keep track of inventory.”

But with the increase in drone use also comes more safety concerns.

“The Part 107 FAA UAS rules only came out in 2016, which was only five years ago. Before that, there were no FAA rules on how to fly drone., I mean, they were everywhere, but it was kind of the wild west,” James Alexander, the chief of safety at the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, said. He’s referring to the rules put in place by the governing body, the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Drones aren't going away. They're here, so we just have to do what the best combination for what's good for the industry and balancing that with safety and everything,” he said.

The industry is only expected to grow here, meaning more drones flying through the skies above us.

“There are projections out there that say it’s going to double by the time we reach 2025 in terms of drone deliveries, drone data collection, and things of that sort,” Hirshkind said.