“What a fine day for science.” This is a common sentiment from Dexter, the titular character of the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory. The boy genius crafted many creations from his laboratory, including giant robots, shrink rays, time machines, and a machine that can give anyone the beard of their choice all in the name of science. Dexter often used these inventions to research and survey different things, such as how ants live and communicate with one another to gathering information on girls by spying on his sister and her friends (Tartakovsky, 1996). Though Dexter usually chooses to take a closer look at his subjects, often leading to hilarious adventures, his initial surveillance of his subjects from a distance is akin to scientists today. Scientist are able to reach places that they have never been or could never reach before, utilizing drone technology.
Drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are aerial vehicles that are controlled by a remote operator (Cho, 2017). Drones come in all types of shapes and sizes, from enormous FQ11 portable drones that can carry large packages to small drones that can travel into small crevasses. Also, drones provide surveillance capabilities that could not be achieved before allowing for better understanding and new findings in regards to scientific research. This is why drones are critical to the exploration of science today, as they provide numerous benefits, such as reachability, scalability, and cost-savings.
As previously stated, drones allow for the scientist to reach new territory that may not have been reached before. This could be an area that was previously unreachable due to harsh weather or other factors. One example of this would be how Assistant Research Professor at Columbia University, Einat Lev, was able to gather thousands of photos of lava flow at the Holuhraun volcano in Iceland in 2014 and 2015.
Lev and her team were not able to get close to and take pictures of the lava themselves as it was still in a dangerous and unpredictable state; however, with the use of a sharper image drone, they were able to garner a wealth of photos while remaining at a safe distance. These pictures have also analyzed by Lev and her team to help advance the ability to predict and assess volcano eruptions (Cho, 2017). Another example of how the reachability of drones assists in the exploration of science would be a junior research group at the University of Bremen who used various drones to study coastal erosion.
These drones were used to capture a number of pictures that would be used to study coral and mangrove communities. These images allow for the team to identify different occurrences such as coral bleaching and how corals are distributed along the coast (Cho, 2017). This reach brings in an enormous amount of data, but it also allows for more sophisticated technology to be utilized as well. This is the scalability of drones.
The scalability of drones is identified by the continual use of drones in combination with other technology to gather deeper data than scientist were previously able to gather. This scalability goes beyond simply reaching and taking photographs of different areas. In most cases, drones are able to contribute to the information that goes beyond photographs. In the previous examples of Einat Lev, her team, as well as the junior research team from the University of Bremen, both teams were able to use their drones to gain not only photographs but also create 3D models of the topology that the drones surveyed. These feats were accomplished in different ways. In the case of Lev and her team, the 3D imaging was created using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology. LiDAR was able to scan the area that Lev’s team could not safely reach themselves and provide an outlook on how the lava flow affected the topography of the landscape.
For the University of Bremen research team, a variety of technology was attached to their drone to supplement the reachability of the drone. This technology includes infrared imaging, hyperspectral cameras, radiation cameras, and various other scanners. These devices attached to the drone allowed the research team to not only gather images, but also collect data such as temperatures, radiation levels, and how sunlight is influencing the coastal region (Cho, 2017). These examples show the scalability of drones from a far; however, drones are also able to get closer to subjects as well. Microdrones, for example, are able to travel to and collect data from unorthodox places such as the inside of a whale or the depths of a small crevice. These drones allow for even more data to be collected from different subjects and allow a greater chance for scientific discoveries to be made (Microdrones GBHM, 2017). Though this technology may sound sophisticated and expensive, drones may actually provide cost-savings.
As with any process, the cost is an important factor. In scientific research, cost concerns can come from numerous areas such as the cost of the facilities used to travel cost (Association of American Universities, 2017). Drones Globe allow scientific researchers to diminish cost as they are able to hold a variety of gadgets and gather critical data that can be used to unveil new discoveries. This can save researchers both cost and time as the drones can quickly survey areas and gather information using the technology attached to them without having to utilize manned resources to collect data at the cost of not only monetary value but also the possible risk of injury. Larger drones that can fly longer distances are able to eliminate the later as they can often be controlled from further distances which can save researchers monetary funds as well, without the need for accommodations such as food, supplies, etc (Hari, 2015). This allows more flexibility and resources to be spent on other portions of the research process, which may aid scientific discovery.
Drones were seemingly made to help the exploration of science. Drones provide so many benefits to scientists and researchers for 3D mapping, wildlife exploration and so on that they have become almost a necessity today. Drones are able to reach difficult places as well as carry and implement technology that can gather valuable data for scientific researchers allowing them to learn more and gain a better understanding of the subjects that they are studying. Drones also allow for cost savings that can save time, effort, money, and also the safety of the research staff. The possession of this type of technology makes it, as Dexter would say, “a fine day for science” indeed.