The Networked Systems team working on drones (from left): Engineering PhD student Mengbin (Ben) Ye, Emeritus Professor Brian Anderson and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Zhiyong Sun.

The Networked Systems team working on drones (from left): Engineering PhD student Mengbin (Ben) Ye, Emeritus Professor Brian Anderson and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Zhiyong Sun.

What can a flock of drones do?

Could drones operate together to conduct surveillance or track bushfires, without human intervention? ANU researchers are working on the issue, as ELOISE RICHARDS reports.

They’re changing the way disaster relief is issued, how parcels are delivered and how news reports are filmed in dangerous or inaccessible areas.

They’re helping to combat shark attacks, survey mines and monitor air pollution.

In the near future, emergency services could even be using a team of them to search for survivors in burning buildings.

Meet the small, high-flying piece of technology with the potential to impact society in a big way: drones.Don’t mistake drones for a passing fad or gimmick – they have been used for decades, primarily for military purposes, and they’re becoming big business.

The market is expected to grow 32 per cent annually over the next decade to reach $30 billion, according to ABI Research.

These days, drones are increasingly prevalent in a range of industries and for different uses, including environmental monitoring, where they have been developed to hover near a chimney in an industrial plant to monitor emissions and collect data.