Did you know the primary definition of “drone” is a male bee? Also, the continuous low humming sound made by the creature. Did you know the correct name for what most of us call a drone is UAV or Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle? But those humming, buzzing, whirring, rumbling mechanical flying things that swoop around at dawn, waking your household up, are misidentified as drones, because the noise they make sounds like a male bee “droning on and on.”
So what good are they, other than for annoying you in the wee hours on a weekend morning? As my sainted mother always said, “Good comes for everything.” A few examples:
- By the year 2050, which is just around the corner, the world population will be 9 billion. How to feed all those hungry mouths? Farmers need to increase their raising food efficiency. So, drones to the rescue: One UAV floating over a crop and analyzing the light reflected from the green plants can tell the operator if those plants are healthy or if they’re infested with Soybean Aphids, or Rice Borers, maybe Sugar Beet Root Maggot, perhaps the dreaded Potato Virus Y or the Colorado Potato Beetle. And that’s without every getting your boots muddy plodding through the furrowed vegetation.
- Remember the Vespa – the brain child of the Italian company Piaggo? This company knew that Italian consumers needed a compact vehicle to negotiate their postwar rubble-pocked mazes of narrow streets and sidewalks. Fast forward to 2017 New York City with a need for a vehicle that uses sidewalks, bike lanes, and building hall ways rather than crowded highways and avenues. Soon to be on the market: the Gita, a round, knee-high robot the company officials call “a smart land drone.” This little number functions like a modern-day pack mule, following a human, trailing several feet behind “the minder”, and carrying up to forty pounds of tools for the building handy man or delivering mail for an overloaded postal delivery worker. And the Gita knows how to find its way back to where it started – an electronic homing pigeon.
- Still in development – a Magnesium Micromotor – aka a tiny vehicle less than the width of a human hair follicle – that can be swallowed and thrive in the high acidity of the human stomach. It takes up residence, and temporarily neutralizes the stomach’s acid pH, creating a safe environment for medications intended to treat stomach ailments: stomach infections, ulcers, even cancer.
- And I saved the best for last. An article in my Laboratory Science Periodical asks the question: “Can Drones Transport Blood Samples?” Could UAVs replace courier services that deliver specimens from draw stations, clinics, and hospitals to a reference laboratory? Inquiring minds needed to know, so a research project collected duplicate blood samples in tubes for chemistry, hematology and coagulation testing. One set was transported by usual courier and one set using UAVs. Following a wide variety of testing, results were compared and – drum roll please – no significant differences in results were noted.
So maybe next holiday season, we will see a movie circulating in all the theaters that a drone (aka UAV) saved Christmas.