Drones and IT making great leaps together

Drones are becoming increasingly widespread, and their innovations are generating exciting new opportunities for professionals in the IT industry.


These days, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, seem to be appearing in the sky everywhere we look. While they may be just a hobby for some people, drone technology is developing quickly and creating exciting new opportunities for commercial use.

Drones are not confined to being used in isolation, but rather have the capability of being extensively programmed. This makes them a very versatile technology which is able to be used for a variety of purposes. When combined with IT, UAVs are providing fruitful possibilities for startups with the potential to affect the availability of job opportunities in IT.

Drones are not totally new but are rapidly evolving

Besides buzzing around the sky piloted by excitable members of the public, drones are often seen on the news, involved in Middle Eastern military operations. The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) states that early UAVs originated in the military, with the first unmanned winged aircraft created for weapon transportation during the first world war. The CASA also links drones to the remotely piloted probes that have long been used for space exploration.

This background reflects the way that UAVs have matured from the preceding technology, and at present we are seeing a concentration of the progress to reveal the device we now know as a drone. Today drones are available in a variety of shapes sizes to serve the purposes of everything from children’s toys to formidable military tools.

The CASA claims that there are currently around 650 known uses for drones, with the success of the technology having a lot to do with the safety they provide their human operators. UAVs have become such a prevalent technology that they are now starting to work together with current aerial operations.

It is their ongoing amalgamation with information technology, however, that is presently causing a stir in the IT industry.

A mind of their own?

The director of the University of Queensland’s Remote Sensing Research Centre claims that “unmanned aircraft systems data provide the missing link between the ground and satellite view, a long standing challenge in the verification and acceptance of satellite imagery by industry and government for a range of applications.”

This is perhaps one of the most interesting new applications for drones. As the accompanying software improves, drones mounted with cameras are able to piece together the images they collect while aerially surveying a particular site. This data has the ability to be formed into a three-dimensional map which can be a very informative and useful resource.

One company that is employing this is Advanced Security Group’s subsidiary start up E-Guard, which uses software to create a 3-D map with data from drones for security purposes as well as general surveying. This enables the drones to act semi-autonomously, assessing and responding to security breaches automatically while still being overseen by an operator if required.

Ventures of this nature are becoming a global trend, such as the German company Microdrones that is harnessing the technology for civil security and surveillance. In Australia, the use of drones in similar ways is becoming increasingly widespread, with Australian Certified UAV Operators Inc. listing an extensive database of UAV operators and services from all over the country.

This development could provide a new focus for those in IT contract roles, who may be brought on by companies to develop the software on which drones can run.

But there are some concerns – look out below!

Needless to say, along with the successful collaboration of UAVs and IT comes some areas of concern such as privacy and safety.

“Drones will revolutionise some industries, with a wide range of beneficial uses,” said Australian parliamentary committee chair George Christensen in press release on the topic.

“All the same we must set out clear rules that govern how the police, governments, businesses and members of the public use drones.”

It has become necessary for the use of drones to be bound under the same laws that govern other kinds of aircraft to ensure the safety of all who occupy the sky. In addition, apprehension about surveillance and how individual privacy could be affected has prompted the creation of regulations to protect it. The CASA details a comprehensive series of rules regarding the use of UAVs, as well as advising about the differences between UAVs and model aircraft, how to be a safe UAV operator and what to do in an emergency situation.

Yet despite the concerns, UAVs continue to be used in new and intriguing ways. Because they are so easily adapted to fill a range of needs, they are able to serve many different industries. From photography to security, surveying to agriculture, drones are making a splash all over Australia and the world.

But regardless of how autonomous drones may become, their evolution is reliant on the undeniable creativity and intellect of those with a career in IT.