Drones – the popular little helicopter-like devices we’ve heard so much about recently – play an important role in many commercial and government activities. We explore their professional use with Mischa Kohnen, CEO of Droneparts, a German based distributor, repair and training company.  

 Think of the word ‘drone’ and you’re likely to conjure up an image of unmanned aircrafts flying autonomously – that is, without human intervention. Yet the word ‘drone’ also includes many other types of unmanned aircraft and they don’t all look the same.  For example, the Ministry of Defence own both submarine and land based vehicles which operate autonomously and are classified as drones.

So, for the sake of simplicity, ‘unmanned aerial system’ tends to be a term used by the military for unmanned vehicles with autonomous capabilities.  Drones and UASs are both commonly used terms, so as the common factor seems to be that both operate without pilots. Let’s just agree to call them drones. 

The use of drones in the commercial world

There’s little doubt that the arrival of drones has boosted many a Christmas stocking, as a trendy gift popular for its aerial photography capabilities,, but do they also have the potential to be a commercial winner? 

A report conducted by one of the Big Four accountancy consultants would suggest so. PricewaterHouseCooper predicts that the deployment of drones could have a dramatic positive effective on economies. 

Drones could easily carry out vital health and safety operations, monitoring and inspecting offshore oil rigs, factories and farmland. Cheaper and arguably more effective than human intervention, their use may be a feasible alternative to service roles which carry an element of personal risk.  

In fact, drones have successfully been introduced into several industries already.  Estate agents have greatly benefited from being able to capture bird’s eye views of properties, the Police and rescue services have adopted the use of drones to locate individuals, and use within the agricultural sector has also increased due to time and cost savings using drones to spray both crops and land.   

Droneparts responds to industry demand 

One company which would echo the popularity and successful use of drones for industry and research is Droneparts. Based in the beautiful town of Hessigheim, approximately 25km north of Stuttgart, Germany, this innovative small business, has over its nine years in operation, grown to serve more 30,000 customers with its maintenance, customer development and flight training expertise.    

“Our customers value our consulting and competence in the use of UAS in a wide variety of applications,” states Mischa Kohnen, CEO of Droneparts. Indeed, for a business operating with ten personnel, the increasing database of authorities and organisations which regularly relies on its specialism is all the more impressive. “Our industry knowledge and expertise is called upon to resolve many security issues faced by authorities and organisations.” Mischa explains. “We supply camera teams, energy companies, public service providers (Fire brigade and Police) surveying offices and agricultural users.”

The wide variety of sensors and equipment within our devices are ideally suited to cope with the demands of the land and agricultural sector. For example, drones can easily detect pest infestations over extensive areas of land and then effectively treat them in an  environmentally friendly manner.  Similarly, drones can be used to detect and track and extinguish the spread of wild fires, and even carry out life-saving missions for search and rescue squads using heat sensor technology. And, with  rapid advances in software technology, Mischa foresees ongoing opportunities and an exciting future for the UAS sector.

Opportunities for ongoing drone adoption 

Drone use has evolved from its initial origins as military tools and now commands many commercial functions. Whilst Mischa agrees that defence and military operations will remain a predominant market for the foreseeable future, drones are really just scratching the surface of their commercial potential. Mischa is confident of a bright future.  “The range of applications and their possibilities will undoubtedly increase,” he says, “emphasising that a further business area of Droneparts which will gain significance is the professional service and maintenance management. Certified maintenance cycles and professional fleet management will accompany drone deployment in the future.      

A major benefit to using drones is the ability to collect real time data, often from high risk areas, via the use of aerial shots. This then provides accurate overviews of potential issues while eliminating the scope for human error. “Drones are revolutionising operational processes, replacing traditional land surveillance methods and the increase in demand has encouraged manufacturers to develop sophisticated devices,” Mischa continues, explaining that his company’s extensive portfolio of cutting edge drones and software respond to the complex safety and security requirements needed within forestry, agriculture, surveying, construction and public safety. 

Industry challenges for the adoption of autonomous drones

Coupled with the benefits and advantages drones undoubtedly offer, there are challenges which manufacturers, suppliers and individual organisations must consider. Ensuring strict compliance with legislation with regard to size and weight is vital, as is training. “You cannot just buy a drone and expect to fly it immediately,” Mischa points out.  All commercial drone operators do have to undergo certified practical and theory training.

A further challenge causing industry concern in the use of data protection, security and privacy of personal information. Drones do capture a huge amount of information which is many instances is personal data.  When connected to publicly accessible telecommunications networks, there’s a real risk that this data could be intercepted and used unlawfully, breaching privacy laws and compromising personal safety. 

The journey ahead

The capacity and functionality of autonomous drones has increased significantly with the maturity of technology, and operations carried out by drone will become far more feasible in terms of costs as adoption becomes more widespread. Manufacturers, operators and software systems must reflect this through ongoing research and development focused around solving challenges whilst also keeping pace with the changing face of industry regulations.

In this respect, Droneparts is already uniquely placed.  “Investing in science and technology puts us at the forefront of our industry,” Mischa is proud to announce. “Our innovative solutions in cybersecurity have resulted in the development of powerful firewalls to provide secure connections, blocking and preventing unauthorised data transmission to the Internet. We’ve also implemented remote support concepts to help our technicians support our customers in the field.”          

In addition, Droneparts provide full training and workshops covering both  practical and theory training and knowledge of the law, as well as a comprehensive repair, maintenance, parts supply, rental and insurance services.

“We think it’s an exciting space to watch,” Mischa concludes. “Each facet of the industry holds great potential for aerial use.  The future is indeed skyward.” Further information on Droneparts wide range of drones, accessories, services, training and contact details can be found at  https://droneparts.de/en/