Artificial Intelligence has made deep inroads into modern technology. Robots, drones and automated vehicles are being updated to serve important fields like the military, environmental conservation, transportation and medicine — and they are excelling at it!
In fact, as stated in a previous article on Techaeris, “Robots are able to complete the work of more than five people and there are almost 5 times as many robots per thousand workers in the U.S. than in the 1990s.” While this may be a cause of concern to some, it is increasingly obvious that these post-human machines show a lot of potential to minimize human error and increase safety across the world.
Drones in Disaster Management
The idea of a drone may have been conceived as part of modern warfare, but its uses have expanded beyond the military. Operated by batteries, this unmanned flying machine can be put to great uses in conditions where aerial visualization is crucial. A drone not only saves the cost and the human labor of flying a helicopter or an airplane over such a site but also manages to get closer to the subject for better inspection.
This is especially helpful in matters of natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, fires, and avalanches. A drone flown over the disaster-stricken area gives the operator a holistic picture of the destruction of life and property, areas hit worst by the disaster, and survivors trapped in difficult locations. Although a drone cannot do the clearing or the evacuation by itself, it provides critical information on how to manage the disaster. The professionals in charge of disaster management can then accurately chart the affected topography and thereby plan rescue operations swiftly and efficiently.
With newer kinds of drones, medical supplies can now be flown to sites of mass injury faster; relief supplies can likewise be carried to areas that are hard to access because of unfavorable topography or political surveillance. For instance, in the US, drone technology has been used to provide disaster relief in light of increasing extreme weather events like hurricanes.
In Rwanda, drone delivery has been taken a step further. Drone start-up Zipline International operates an autonomous system to deliver blood to those in need in the African country. As stated by CNBC, “Zipline has completed 300,000 km of autonomous flight across Rwanda — a nation known for its mountainous geography, difficult weather and poor infrastructure — delivering 7,000 units of blood over 5,000 flights.”
Drones and Conservation
Environmental conservation can also be enhanced by flying drones over oceans to spot oil spillages and polluting emissions and to gather data to measure the rise of sea level. At first glance, the environmental uses of drones may not seem as though they contribute to safety. However, their utility in the reduction of pollutants and as a means to fight climate change all contribute to enhanced human health. An article on CB Insights cites the example of RanMarine, which operates an unmanned machine to collect waste from ports and harbors. Similarly, RedZone Robotics uses robots to help maintain wastewater management systems.
Wildlife poaching can also be combated by using geospatial imagery to track animals. A team at Liverpool John Moores University’s School of Natural Sciences is currently in the process of developing an autonomous drone system that can track endangered species and relay information about their status back to researchers. Even drone giant DJI has done work within the environmental space, offering up their drones to help researchers conduct remote research without destroying natural habitats. Thus, the use of drones in terms of conservation and the promotion of environmental stability seems to be a rapidly-growing trend.
Everyday Life-saving Uses of Drones and Robots
Since the majority of the world’s population still relies on fossil fuel for the supply of energy, the infrastructure for extraction, refining, and transportation of oil and gas needs stringent supervision. According to experts at Industrial Skyworks, drones with their thermal sensors can oversee such rules and regulations swiftly and remotely and are more effective than human inspectors. They can also significantly improve labor-intensive and potentially risky jobs like surveys of mining areas and ores.
Elimination of threat to human lives is, in fact, something that unmanned vehicles of different kinds can largely assist with. At inspection sites, human workers may be exposed to a lot of risks like those of hazardous gases, radiation, insufficient oxygen, falling debris, and mechanical hazards. Drones, through their high accuracy sensors, can collect better data by getting closer than a human worker.
Automated cars are another important product of artificial intelligence and robotics. These smart cars are particularly helpful in increasing road safety by eliminating the chances of drunk and reckless driving. For example, an autonomous vehicle may have sensors along the seat belt and the driver’s seat that automatically detects if the human driver has consumed more alcohol than what is safe to drive. In this is the case, the sensors send signals to the motor which will simply not start.
Additionally, these cars use robotic enhancements like dash cameras to minimize accidents. Smart driving is also complemented by efficient use of the global positioning systems whereby commercial fleets can communicate with other vehicles, improving road safety. While there is a risk in giving control to a non-human third party, the benefits of robotics and artificial intelligence seem to outweigh the vulnerabilities. As technology advances, these risks are sure to be minimized.
Finally, at the level of the individual, artificial intelligence has given birth to smart door locks that only allow trusted individuals to enter a home. This is especially useful when elderly members of the family are left at home alone. Another advancement in robotics, namely IBM’S MERA (Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant), is a boon to the elderly and can save lives, This robotic assistant is really an in-home medical assistant. Its sensors can measure heart and breathing rates and can, through its visual recognition tech, even help a person who has fallen down!
There’s no doubt that drones and robotics will continue to be extremely useful in enhancing human safety. Today, we are already seeing the effect of these technological advancements, especially in terms of taking over traditionally “dangerous” human roles. To quote the CB Insights article, “The use cases for safe, cost-effective solutions range from data collection to delivery. And as autonomy and collision-avoidance technologies improve, so too will drones’ ability to perform increasingly complex tasks. While the lack of a human element in drone/robotic functioning can be seen as a threat, the many benefits of this technology seem to position it favorably for the future.
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