So what is geofencing and how does it relate to drones? The term "geofencing" is evolving as does the technology. Typically, it describes a fixed GPS boundary which uses radio frequencies (think Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) to trigger an alert when entered or exited.
Geofencing for Security, Supply Chain Management, Marketing, Etc.
A daycare or senior care center may put sensors on those under their supervision. Staff is alerted when the sensor moves beyond a predetermined boundary. Trucking firms may similarly track when a specific vehicle enters or exits any specific location. Marketing firms may deliver a message to a person's smart phone when they enter a store. The message could be based on previous purchases or interaction with online offers.
Drones and Geofencing Opportunities
The examples above all rely upon a relatively static location.
Now let's throw drones into the conversation and it changes greatly.
Currently if you do a search for geofencing and drones you're likely to find a number of solutions that utilize geofencing to keep drones out - out of a private area, away from the president, etc. But there are also a number of ways to use geofencing to enable drones to freely stay within a prescribed area.
In public use, drone technology has been driven by consumer applications. This is changing. According to Goldman Sachs research, "by 2020, we forecast a $100 billion market opportunity for drones—helped by growing demand from the commercial and civil government sectors."**
Combining drone's onboard GPS capability with GIS mapping software is the key to opening this huge possibility. This explosive growth forecast will happen when it is relatively simple to load specific flight paths which control the drone's direction, height and camera. Once launched, the drone will automatically fly and record it's programmed path. This could revolutionize fields as diverse as real estate, insurance and utilities.
Drone Geofencing for Real Estate, Insurance, Pipelines ...
Real estate appraisers currently view and "walk" the property they are valuing personally. Google Earth and Street View are no substitute for seeing boundaries and structures in person and in real time. However, a drone, using property boundaries and geofencing, could fly the boundary of a property to identify possible encroachments while recording exterior views of buildings both on and near the property parcel.
Insurance underwriters could similarly view a property and its structures using property lines and geofencing while also seeing the surrounding area. While these examples don't put professionals inside buildings, the outside work can be happening simultaneously.
Utilities such as transmission lines or pipelines must be continually monitored. This can be expensive, difficult and infrequent due to conditions on the ground. Drones following specific programs that combine boundaries and geofencing can record to almost any reasonable height and over impassable terrain. This could not only reduce the cost of crews in the field but improves the quality of the final product by recording views which are much better than currently possible.
These are only a fraction of the possible applications which will happen if we get anywhere near the $100 billion market which is being forecast. This is a huge opportunity and worth keeping an eye on.
**Drones Reporting for Work, https://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/technology-driving-innovation/drones/