Pigs may not fly yet, but COW’s do!

David A. Bosko, MSME, P.E., P.Eng., CFEI

There has been much talk about the advancement of drone technology and its application to various engineering and industrial roles from powerline, bridge, and roof inspections to surveying of construction sites and crops. Beyond the obvious engineering applications or the occasional mention of a pizza or package delivery that most of us continually hear about, what sort of crazy, perhaps brilliant, drone applications have industrious problems solvers come up with?  The following are three of my favorites.

First on the list – AT&T has created a flying COW! The COW (Cell on Wings) is a flying cell phone tower. This “Extreme-Weather Drone” can operate in freezing temperatures with self-heating batteries, through rain or snow, and into wind gusts up to 50 mph. The COW operates as part of AT&T’s Network Disaster Recovery (NDR) system. Although the flying COW’s are still being developed, early generation prototypes were successfully deployed in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Flying COW
https://about.att.com/inside_connections_blog/flying_cow_puertori

If you thought drones were just good for fancy aerial photographs of real-estate, this next example might open your mind to the endless possibilities. Let me introduce you to the SnotBot. Yes, a drone for collecting snot. Indeed a gift for the man who has everything. At least if its for a man trying to save the whales. It turns out that useful data on virus and bacteria loads, reproductive cycles, or the absorption of environmental toxins in a whale’s system can be challenging to acquire. It is also extremely traumatic to the whale when done by traditional methods such as chasing them down with speedboats and shooting them with a sampling dart from a crossbow. With the SnotBot, researchers can remain half a mile away from the whales while flying the SnotBot through the clouds of blow snot far above the surface of the water and the whales. The whales remain oblivious to the work of the researchers while this vital snot data is collected and analyzed to further our understanding as well as guide our response to whale health and habitat. Of course, please consider contributing to this worthy cause at the link below.

Snotbot
https://shop.whale.org/pages/snotbot

Finally, a drone that has the potential to affect all our lives. Pensa Systems has developed a drone to ensure beer coolers remain stocked, and store employees are quickly notified when shelf stock gets low. Currently, there is intense competition to automate the tracking of inventory throughout the retail sector. Other companies have entered the space to create a more efficient inventory management solution with ground-based robots, but it may be hard to achieve the speed with which the flying drone from Pensa can tackle the task. Rest assured, going to the beer isle only to find your favorite brew out of stock may soon be a thing of the past. I do love whales, but it’s a beautiful thing you are doing Pensa. God speed.

Flying Robot
https://www.zdnet.com/article/quickdraw-flying-robot-scans-shelves-faster-than-clerks-and-ground-robots/