The world of technology is more and more often merging with the world of business. One example of which is the presence of drones in various areas of business – those flying, floating and moving on the ground. Where are drones most commonly used at the moment?
Robert Fintak, CEO of Terra Hexen: Years ago, during a discussion at a conference on modern technologies, I made a statement that was immediately criticised by my fellow participants. It sounded like this: Drones, like the Internet, will turn our world upside down... Now I'm absolutely sure I was right.
Today, it is still a bit of a futures studies scenario to say that in a year's time there will be unmanned taxis flying over our heads or drones delivering packages. But only a bit, because there are already places in the world where 5G technology pilot projects are carried out and autonomous construction machines are being used and managed. And taking a closer look, a few months ago the Polish company Spartaqs made the world's first flight over the city very centre of the city (of Warsaw) to deliver medical samples to a hospital.
However, coming back to the key question. Wedding photos and videos taken using drones have entered the service convention and have become standard for several years. Currently, there is also a rapidly growing trend of using unmanned systems for inspection and supervision in the construction of motorways or expressways. Another growing service market is drone inspections of solar and wind farms. This comes as no surprise, because wherever we need to get high-resolution photos or real time footage, drones are irreplaceable, much cheaper and safer than a specialist team that will climb a windmill that measures up to 120 m in height.
However, it should be remembered that in order to fly a drone to heights above 120 m from the ground, appropriate certification and special permission from the Civil Aviation Authority are required. Another example of the presence of unmanned vessels are dronoids moving on the ground, which have found applications in the inspection of long distances of gas pipes or in oil pipelines under construction.
Using the construction industry as an example, we can see that drones have made the human job significantly easier – what tasks can drones be used for in office or warehouse properties?
They are perfectly suited for making maps and inventories of the area of a given investment, making film and promotional footage As far as warehouses are concerned, I know of companies that already successfully provide roof coating quality analysis services on large warehouse areas, both in terms of damage, cracks, leaks and heat loss, etc. In addition, by installing a special scanner (lidar), it is possible to obtain graphic material from the interior of the property and show it in 3D format to a client on the other side of the world.
A friend of mine, who works for one of the large corporations in an openplan office, told me that employee office races with small drones have become very popular as a form of relaxation during breaks from work.
Are any special permits, licenses or other permissions required to use drones in Poland? And are drones supposed to be registered – like cars?
There are several categories that affect the need for registration and licensing. These include the weight of the drone, whether it has a sensor (camera) capable of recording footage, photographs, personal data (GDPR) and where the operator intends to fly it. The regulations are quite simple and divided into open and special categories. Currently, when using a drone for non-commercial purposes, we are exempt from formalities such as passing a drone operator exam. We are only prohibited from flying out of sight, and in built-up areas, if the weight of the device exceeds 600 g, it is required to keep a distance of at least 30 m from people and vehicles and min. 100 m from buildings and large gatherings of people. Flying a drone weighing less than 600 g, we can fly freely in built-up areas, ensuring a safe horizontal distance from other aircraft, facilities, people and animals.
Of course, regardless of the weight of the drone, it is prohibited to fly over enclosed areas, nuclear facilities, military units and training grounds, as well as facilities such as power plants, heating plants, waterworks, sewage treatment plants, special production facilities, etc. However, I would suggest you to visit the website of the office responsible for regulations www.ulc.gov.pl where you can find all the detailed information.
Help is one thing, but espionage is another. Drones and other robots can be used to steal data, take illegal photos and other illegal activities. How large is the scale of such incidents in Poland and in the world and how to defend yourself against drones?
We have been monitoring the media for a year and have posted in three languages on www.antidrone24.com all the information found about attacks, accidents, incidents, criminal cases and crimes with the use of drones. In the beginning we had one two news items per week, today actually several per day. The scale cannot be determined because there are no such records yet, but the dynamics of this phenomenon are alarmingly increasing. It is enough to realize that in Poland alone, well over 100,000 advanced UAVs have already been sold.
When it comes to defending against this type of activity, we do not have many tools. We must realise that these flyingrobots, navigated by an operator or flying autonomously thanks to a planned route, are extremely difficult to detect. They are largely made of plastic, emit minimal heat, are quiet, and fly out of sight for the human eye. Therefore, modern radars and other sensors have serious difficulties with detecting such flying objects.
Of course, there are already advanced systems, such as the Polish "Skyctrl" system, developed by engineers from the APS company, but the average citizen is unlikely to mount radars and optical sensors on their roof. I believe, however, that by taking preventive measures, acting before something happens, our critical infrastructure already has, or will soon have, these safeguards in place.
In the media, we read or hear a lot about the use of drones in the e-commerce industry and using them, for example, to deliver purchased products to our door at home. Is this information so-called market research for the time being, or are we perhaps already closer to, rather than further away from, this type of business practice?
Just a month ago, Decathlon together with a Polish drone manufacturer tested the delivery of parcels to a specific location. The tests turned out to be successful. These types of solutions will emerge very quickly and are actually ready to be implemented. An obstacle is the regulation of such flights by the state. Financial analyses show that the use of drones for parcel delivery results in big savings for courier and e-commerce companies, so the question is not if, but when we will see many flying machines above our heads.
Finally, a question about drones from a more global point of view – what does Poland look like on the world map when it comes to the production or use of drones in business?
Poland has a very rich modelling tradition, so for over a decade our engineers and constructors have been creating, designing and transforming their visions into real models. We have over 15,000 certified drone operators. We were the first country to develop rules and regulations for drone use in 2012. We were also the first to develop a security standard for sensitive infrastructure exposed to unmanned aerial vehicles. Unfortunately, Chinese products are so cheap and yet so advanced that we have much more experience in using them for business than in producing our own proprietary models. Which is not to say that Polish drones are not competitive on global markets, but this is more the case with military drones.