Crop Surveillance, Disaster Relief, Entertainment and More: There’s a Drone for That

Digital Content Market

Drones have gained notoriety and infamy because of their use in military operations. But these unmanned aerial vehicles are no longer solely the domain of combat—everyone from farmers to film directors to e-commerce companies are using drones as their eyes in the sky.

And despite the fact that the civilian drone market is currently a regulatory nightmare, the market is still expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.01% from 2014-2019.


A big part of this growth can be chalked up to the growing number of ways that industries, companies and individual consumers are using drones.

Emerging uses for civilian drones:

Crop surveillance

Drones are equipped with technologies like sensors and infrared cameras that can enhance the speed and quality of crop surveillance. They can collect data on crop yield, weeds, and water shortage efficiently and quickly, which gives farmers a head start when dealing with issues like disease outbreaks. 

Oil and gas industry

Drones can easily and economically inspect thousands of miles of oil and gas transportation pipelines, which helps companies protect against the risk of fire and explosions caused by oil and gas leaks. Drones equipped with cameras and sensors can fly at low altitudes above the pipelines and send real-time information and images of the pipes, which can also be used for inspecting offshore oil platforms and tailing ponds.

Shell, for instance, uses drones in some of its energy plants in Europe to reach locations that are difficult to access.

Disaster relief operations

Drones are increasingly being used to detect and avoid hazardous environments and natural disasters. They can be used for search and rescue operations, crisis mapping, and to send relief packages and cargo into stricken areas.

In 2010, drones were deployed during the rescue operations after the earthquake in Haiti, and in 2011, they were used to measure the radiation following the Fukushima disaster.

These disaster relief drones can fly at low altitudes and send real-time information about the condition of the disaster areas. The images and information can help disaster relief workers evaluate the areas, send aid, and prioritize the rescue operations as per requirements, giving rescue workers a full view of the situation they’re about to tackle.


Packages delivered by drones are no longer a thing of science fiction. Many e-commerce companies have started deploying drones to deliver packages to their customers. Alibaba ran a three-day trial for drone delivery packages to its customers through drones and DHL, a German logistics company, has started a drone delivery service that will carry medicine and other necessary materials to remote locations such as an island in Germany’s North Sea.

Amazon announced a while ago that it has every intention of introducing drone delivery to its growing roster of services. However, the e-commerce giant is still stuck in regulatory limbo, awaiting FAA approval for the service.

Wildlife conservation

Similarly to how drones can be used to monitor crops and oil rigs, they can also be used to keep an eye on remote wildlife conservation areas to prevent illegal trafficking of endangered species.

South Africa has already deployed drones to help curtail rhinoceros poaching, after nearly 1,215 animals were illegally killed in 2014.

On top of helping to stop illegal hunting, drones can also be used by scientists to track animals without interfering in their natural habitat.

Entertainment industry

The use of drones in film and media has been on the up and up ever since the FAA approved their use in the entertainment industry in 2014. It goes without saying that these UAVs can help filmmakers capture stunning aerial shots, and the film industry is starting to see more and more drones as a fixture on film sets.