Drone Technology

Drone Technology

The following information was gathered during the 2016 DetroitDevDay Conference held at United Shore in Troy, MI on November 12, 2016. The speaker for this topic was Godfrey Nolan of RIIS.

Current Applications

Drones are expected to become very popular in professional applications over the next five years. Some industries which are seeing rapid growth are:

  • Agriculture
  • Surveying
  • Search and Rescue

There are even companies using them to capture some really awesome footage. Check out this video of the United Shore 2016 Rally:

Some companies are using drones to make healthcare more accessible. Check out Zipline. They are using drones to deliver medicine to rural areas of Africa.

Development and Open Source

Now this was a conference for developers, so of course it was pointed out that you can hack and develop code for these devices. There are some companies out there creating great drones for $1000 (DJI) and others for even less (about $500). These cheaper drones are made by companies like Yuneec and 3DR.

What makes Yuneec and 3DR special is that their drones are built using Drone Code which is an open sourece UAV platform. This means that as a developer, you don't need to right any core flight code. This is all done for you. All you need to focus on is the front end modile app that will control the drone in some way.

Now, some security issues to keep in mind:

Everything is RF, so it can be sniffed and decoded, especially if it is WiFi. So don't hard code usernames or passwords. You could end up getting your drone hijacked.

3DR has a "hello drone" tutorial to get you started. There are also several apps out there to give you an idea about what you can do with this platform.


Make sure you register your drone with the FAA. You should also check HiveMapper to be sure you're not flying where you shouldn't be. This is also a great site to get an idea of the landscape before you fly. Generally, you should not fly within 5 miles of an airport. If it is a small airport, it might be OK if you call them first to ask.