Machine learning is the idea that describes computers that can essentially “learn” and process new information without specifically being programed to do so. If you give a computer a task, it will more-or-less get better at that task the more it has a chance to engage in it. Object detection is a subset of this idea and is of particular relevance to photos. Not only does object detection let you know which objects are in a photo (hence the name), it also gives you insight into precisely where they are, too.
But out of all the industries and activities where object detection is poised to make a big impact, drone services are undoubtedly right at the top. According to one recent study, there will be about seven million drones in the skies across the United States by as soon as 2020. With advanced techniques like object detection, there really is no limit to what they can do.
Drones and Object Detection: What You Need to Know
To get a better understanding of just how beneficial object detection can be within the context of a drone, let’s narrow the discussion down to one particular type of UAV – those intended for photography and videography. This makes sense since, according to one recent study, the photography industry is actually the top industry in the US that is currently using drones as of 2016. Real estate came in second, but since drones in this space are also commonly used for taking photographs and videos of homes and large pieces of property, it’s acceptable to lump them into the same category.
Let’s say you were in a park and you wanted a drone to record a video as you walked from one end of the environment to the other. Say the entire length of that space is about 100 yards, give or take. With object detection, the drone essentially “knows” what it’s recording in the first place. It can separate you from the trees, animals, park benches and other objects in the vicinity. But more than that, it also knows that it should be following you, too – no matter where you currently are or where you happen to be headed.
At that point, it can essentially “lock onto you,” following you along until you stop moving without any further action being required on your part. You start walking, the drone moves with you. You stop walking, the drone does the same.
This concept works the other way, too. If your drone can detect the objects around it, it also “knows” what types of objects it needs to stay away from. You don’t have to worry about your drone suddenly flying directly into a tree or through power lines if it is “aware” of the danger that those objects represent. You don’t have to worry about your drone suddenly flying out over the open water, because it “knows” that water and flat, level ground are two different things.
But the implications of this level of object detection in drone services go far beyond aerial photography and videography, too. Many industries are using them to assist with important tracking, management and inventory-related issues in places like warehouses and even on construction sites. A drone service with object detection can not only help create a grid-based location of assets at any given moment, but it can also provide insight into the check-in and check-out of assets, inventory location and reporting, it can help authorize yard activity and more.
Even law enforcement officials can use drones with object detection to keep a better eye on suspects, monitoring them from a low profile location to provide officers with all the information they need to quickly make an arrest in the safest and most effective way possible.
After all this, it’s easy to see why something as seemingly-simple as object detection is so important when it comes to drone services. With it, you can focus less on the drone itself and more on whatever activity you were trying to do – whether it involved trying to take better photos at a weekend wedding shoot or eliminate waste from your construction site doesn’t actually matter. It’s one of the purest examples of using technology to not replace humans but support and empower them – and it’s one that is only going to get more important as time goes on.
If you’re looking to make your drones smarter, think Filestack. We offer Object Detection and other machine learning services to be custom trained for your drones.
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