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While the drone industry is booming, it’s important to remember that the drone is merely a vehicle, a way to transport what provides the actual value – the drone payloads.

These payloads can be broadly broken down into a few categories: Lasers, Radio Frequency, Signal Intelligence, physical payloads (transportations of a variety of goods).

According to, the majority of companies focus on optical payloads (photographs and videos), however, physical transportation payloads are gaining popularity. While radio frequency (RF) payloads are still mostly found in military applications, these are slowly proving to offer diverse capabilities and making a unique mark in the industry as well.

Almost everyone is aware that drones can take incredible aerial photographs and videos. In relation to the security sector, having the ability to quickly assess a large area from a bird’s eye view is instrumental; however, traditional photographs only capture the tip of the iceberg.

Employing a more advanced optical payload with the ability to shift to higher or lower frequencies would uncover a large range of additional and high-value information.

Electric or cell service providers would find LIDAR drones extremely useful when surveying land for new wiring. Yet you can see that when combined with infrared capabilities and other optical solutions, your drone would provide access to never before seen ground perspectives. It’s all in the way you build your payload sensor.

Other possible applications include the development of Signal Intelligence and Radar Imagery, which have been part of the U.S. Military’s repertoire for decades. Incredibly diverse, signal intelligence focuses on the collection, processing, classification and analysis of radio frequency signals.

A drone with a signal intelligence sensor will be able to tell you how many radios are being used in the area, where they are located (Electronic Intelligence), and in some top-secret instances, what is being said (Communication Intelligence).

Geolocation of signals can be extremely important, especially in time-critical situations like relief efforts during natural disasters—access to Electronic Intelligence would help rescuers locate a stranded victim quicker.

Radar is another technology that believe will quickly gain popularity in the near future. With the ability to see through clouds, rain, and many other factors that bring traditional optical sensors to a grinding halt, radar provides imagery that’s also critical in disaster scenarios.

In the end, these tools will hopefully enable faster, better, and more accurate responses to a variety of operations that plain optics fail to provide.

Last but not least, physical payloads – these are the delivered packages or even goods like medicine and water. Logistics in coordinating the loading and delivery of physical objects has and will always be a huge task, so employing drones for the delivery of much-needed supplies will prove industry-altering. Already, the military is experimenting with UAV’s to deliver supplies to cut-off troops in the field, which can easily prove useful in a civilian application, such as in the aftermath of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina.