Examples of Non-Military, Non-Police use of Drones (please add your own)

One of the things I get asked most often about by the press is for examples of non-military, non-police use of drones. Part of our function here at DIY Drones is to educate the public about civilian and peaceful uses of drones, so I'm always happy to reel off some examples, from agriculture to Hollywood (aside from the main reason we do it here, which is education and fun).  Atmel has also created a great list of "18 ways that drones are being used today", which illuminates how broad their non-military applications are.  

But to make it easier to get the word out, I've started a repository of such uses, below. I'll link to this post from the front page of DIY Drones. Please add your own examples and suggestions (including categories I may have missed) in the comments, and I'll update the post to include them as they come in.

Examples of Non-Military, Non-Police use of Drones


Search and Rescue



Wildlife management


News reporting

Real Estate


Delivering Medicine

Human Rights Monitoring

Communications networks

And lots more in the comments below and at the DC Area Drone User group

Views: 39716

Comment by MarcS on November 26, 2012 at 1:42am

Chris, I think this is a very important issue. I also get asked things like this quite often...

One thing to consider would be to arrange this list in a manner that people without further knowledge are first pointed at applications that clearly make the point. That is non government use of unmanned aircraft makes sense and is not endangering the public. Not all applications lead to that directly, they could give a false impression (too toy-like, no directly visible use for the "public" etc.)

Probably select one good example of filming, mapping, communication and research.

If people are interested they can browse the rest of the list..

Comment by Gary Mortimer on November 26, 2012 at 2:05am

The question I keep being asked is how many civilian UA are flying. I reckon at least 5000 in the USA regularly. What do others think?

Comment by MarcS on November 26, 2012 at 2:49am

Gary, thats a hard question t answer, very important, though.

When it comes to legal commercial UAS you should be able to tell by the numbers of COA´s ore equivilant in other countires. I suppose this number is quite limited. Some hundred worldwide?

The difference between hobby and commercial is something that also should be pointed to. Reason is that 1. people realize they need a license for commercial, and 2. that a difference is recognized if some news is there regarding a RC/UAS flyer or a "professional"...  Not that easy...

Comment by Gary Mortimer on November 26, 2012 at 3:10am

Well there are 110 in the UK alone last time I checked so if that's the way of measuring yes maybe 1000 correctly licenced entities worldwide. But including all private flight?? It has to be a big number.

Comment by MarcS on November 26, 2012 at 3:16am

I think it is important to have up to date numbers on this because it helps to argument against the fears spread in the news when they are talking about "several tenthousand UAS spying on you..."

It shows there is careful consideration for every case.

Thats why I also think we should clearly point out the difference between Hobby/Fun, which is fun, educating, intersting hobby and serious work/job/research. Of course there are overlaps but thats too complicated for the first introduction to the topic.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on November 26, 2012 at 5:11am

I think there should be no difference between hobby and commercial as regards data gathering. I also think airworthy standards will apply to all UA within 10 years. There needs to be a very clear water between RC flight and UA. 

I think 3DR has sold more than 10k autopilots, lets say only half of them are flying and call it 5k worldwide to start with.

The privacy issue seems to really only be an issue in the USA where the FAA are using it as an excuse to hold up the selection of FAA test sites

Anyhow I have moved this tooooooo far off topic now! Sorry Chris.

Comment by Antonius Lourenço Kasbergen on November 26, 2012 at 5:19am

The links for the Agriculture category are missing... 

Comment by MarcS on November 26, 2012 at 5:53am

Gary, I agree we should stay focused on the topic :-) find good examples for UA use!

Atmospheric research:

http://bllast.sedoo.fr/campaigns/   http://www.svalbardscienceforum.no/pages/news333.htm http://www.cost-uas.net/

Gary, I only have to disagree with your differentiation between RC/UA... I want to be considered RC if I fly my APM/Paparazzi/whatever. This is because I want to fly under RC rules which is actually what I do (being able to manually control at any time) and doing it for my private fun. What probably will happen in 10 years is not important now... The clear differentiation by law in most countires I know is Hobby/Fun against commercial. So I think we should use this argument! And privacy concerns are not only an issue in the US. Here in Germany it is also a big point of discussion regarding UA use...

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on November 26, 2012 at 8:32am

Antonius: Thanks. Fixed

Comment by Curt Olson on November 26, 2012 at 8:46am

Hi Chris,

Here's another use: NOAA.gov has been exploring the use of UAV's to address the growing problem of ocean debris:


ATI (the company I work for) has been involved in several NOAA sponsored marine debris projects.


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