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Do more with your drone: 5 things you can do with a UAV (aside from taking pics)

Drones are already famous for their incredibly beautiful shots of landscapes, sports, homes, and much more. But 4K images and video are just the beginning: There are many other activities that you —yes, even you, amateur drone pilot— can get involved in to show off your drone, make a difference in the world, and volunteer for some truly exciting opportunities. Here are the top five!

1. Racing Competitively

If you have a seriously souped-up drone that you want to show off, then drone racing is absolutely a real sport, and it’s growing around the world with multiple options for joining leagues and testing your skills. They are even showing drone races on ESPN!

Drone racing leagues vary from more casual organizations that encourage amateur participation to very professional players that sign up for big, showy events (if you’ve never seen a drone race at night with all the drones decked out in LED lights, you’re definitely missing something). Of course, no matter how you get involved in racing, you have to have the right drone specifications to qualify, and enough time to invest in a serious hobby. The good news is that you can be part of a growing sport that is working to cement its own standards, laws, and policies.

Find out more: Try visiting Drone Racing MultiGP, a global racing league with a lot of different opportunities around the world. If you want to look for flashier events that are fun to attend even if you don’t necessarily want to race drones yourself, then check out The Drone Racing League and see what cities it’s coming to in the future.

2. Drone Search and Rescue Volunteering

Harrisen Howes
Harrisen Howes

Drones have also proven to be particularly valuable when it comes to emergency services. You can get them off the ground more easily and more quickly than a helicopter, which makes them ideal for a rapid deployment when someone goes missing in nearly any wilderness situation. Drones can also be used for similar emergency services, such as spotting and tracking wildfires, searching disaster zones, and much more.

Obviously this is amazing because it allows drone pilots to help save lives, but it’s also a less costly and fast way of conducting search and rescue efforts compared to traditional solutions.

Find out more: Obviously, you can’t just go out and join a search and rescue team at a whim. First, search your local area to see if there are any nearby programs that allow amateur drone pilots to join efforts as volunteers. There are also many training programs online for gaining experience and potentially certification. The Drone Pro Academy offers classes to introduce you to search and rescue, and various drone companies offer boot camps for hands-on training.

3. Wildlife Conservation with Drones

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Here’s an eco-friendly movement that has joined forces with drone pilots: Wildlife conservation organizations are turning toward drones to help them make a difference, and many of them are looking for volunteers to help out.

This effort is ongoing, and somewhat complex. The FAA has specific regulations for drones used to survey wildlife, and of course not everyone is close enough to the areas that conservation organizations want to survey. However, if you are in the right place and have the right training, this can be an excellent way to help the planet and spot some rare animals. It’s also a particularly cool choice if you don’t mind shipping out as a volunteer to join a research group in one of earth’s many exotic place for a couple months of drone scouting.

Find out more: There are plenty of resources online that you can check out to learn more about these opportunities. ConservationDrones is a great source of information for volunteers, and National Geographic has a good introductory article. You should also contact local colleges and conservation groups to see if they need any help track wildlife.

4. Helping Scientists with Important Studies

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Even if tracking wildlife in exotic locations isn’t really your thing, you can still help out scientists in other ways! This typically involves equipping your drone with scientific equipment that can take thermo images or high-resolution cameras that can easily gather information that can help local research.

You’d be surprised just how many scientific purposes drones have: Some conduct surveys, some keep track of fire damage or pest infestations, some watch drought conditions, and…well, there are a lot of different projects, based on research goals. Drones can often find a place where widespread geographical data collection is needed. Plus, you get to make a difference!

Find out more: Check out this article on the legal requirements for flying science drones so that you know what’s expected. This is another good opportunity to connect with local colleges, GIS organizations, and research groups and see what their needs are.

5. Connecting Sick Patients with the Places They Love

Image used with permission by copyright holder

For a heartfelt use of your drones, look no further than this outreach. The concept is simple and very touching: There are patients living in hospice care, at home, or in retirement homes and hospitals that have not been able to get out and about for years. Drone pilots can do something about that.

There are volunteers who connect with these patients and learn about favorite spots they had when growing up, whether it be a cabin in the forest, a spot on the beach, a river they loved to fish, or another important memory. Drone pilots then go out to the area in question, send up a drone with a high-quality camera, and send a (real-time, if possible) video feed back to a screen set up for the patient. Patients and their loved ones then get to relive some of their favorite spots through the eyes of the drone, which fortunately cannot shed tears.

Find out more: Visit Flight to Remember to learn more about this effort. You may want to contact hospice organizations in your area and see if they offer any similar programs, too.

Tyler Lacoma
Former Digital Trends Contributor
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
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