This article discusses two lesser-known arenas of innovation in sustainability technology that are helping solve global resource shortages: 5G and Unmanned Automated Vehicles (UVAs) and their roles in the future of sustainability.
In a discussion with the Consumer Technology Association, the Vice President of Qualcomm’s Economic Strategy, Dr. Kirti Gupta, explained how sustainability and global access drive their technology development and are revolutionizing how the world connects “everyone to everything” sustainability is built into the infrastructure of each generation of “G’s”. As the world’s leading wireless technology innovator, Qualcomm not only wants to improve global access to fast, reliable network connectivity but to make that access equitable and scalable – two principles that Dr. Gupta believes are essential to sustainable development. As an economist in the technology space, Dr. Gupta measures and evaluates trends for their economic, social and environmental footprint.
The key to 5G creating a sustainable future for everyone lies in the implementation of accessibility and resource efficiency from the design to deployment. In conducting internal reports, Qualcomm (US) has found that 5G has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 350 million metric tons annually, equivalent to removing 81 million vehicles from roads per year. Moreover, by using water optimization via smart censoring and better-optimized use of water leakage in water systems, Qualcomm technology could reduce water usage by 450 billion gallons per year. Looking to the future, Qualcomm plans to make its technology more accessible, scalable and affordable to ensure higher global reliability and lower latency.
The exponential improvement from 2G to our current 5G networks is promising for global resource sustainability on multiple grounds. First, by improving those network infrastructures already in place, businesses across the spectrum will save precious resources of time and money. Therefore, those businesses will have a stronger opportunity to grow and thrive in the long term, able to reinvest those savings into sustainable growth. 5G technology is instrumental in the future of traditional concepts of sustainability as well. Sustainability as we know it is founded on equitable access to global resources, and in developing 5G infrastructure in countries that have historically lacked access, millions of individuals will have the opportunity to affordably connect with the resources they need to strengthen both their communities and their global market share. It is hard to overestimate the power of internet globalization in its relation to sustainability, and it will surely continue to play a large role in the foreseeable future.
The global pandemic and supply chain disruptions continue to exasperate food insecurity, and the agriculture industry has needed to innovate at a rapid pace in order to meet growing demand. Monitoring, tracking, and surveilling large plots of farmland and livestock populations is critical to maintaining consistent yields and allows farmers to reach greater efficiency. Unfortunately, in the past, this has been a challenge for those farmers who oversee considerable tracts of land and may not have the resources to take such measures of diligence on a regular basis. However, advances in UAV technology are helping growers sustainably meet their demands. Here are five key ways in which drones are facilitating this task:
1) Surveying Fruits, Crops, and Livestock
With modern technology improving at unprecedented speeds, most drones produced for agricultural purposes are now fitted with high-definition cameras, multiple scanners, thermal imaging, and geotagging capabilities. Not only does this allow incredibly precise visual imagery, but allows farmers to gather comprehensive data on crop health for a variety of purposes.
2) Capturing High Def Photo and Video
Tracking plant growth is fundamental to a farmer’s success. Managing vast farmlands can make it challenging to regularly inspect soil conditions, plant hydration, or even track lost cattle. However, drones are small, lightweight, and can be operated from great distances while relaying critical imagery back to their operator. This gives farmers the opportunity to surveil as regularly as desired while also helping them quickly spot and respond to threats to their yields. Drone technology not only allows farmers to be more sustainable in their yield and cost efficiency but can allow farmers of varying sizes, mobility, and financial means to maintain a profitable and lucrative crop.
3) 3D Mapping of Terrain
High-definition topographic maps help farmers make accurate land measurements, which is essential for making important characterizations like soil conditions for predictable and sustainable crop growth. This has the potential to help those farmers whose lands are not only vast but difficult to traverse, or who have suffered from natural disasters like mudslides or tornadoes.
4) Plant and Animal Tracking Using Drone Multispectral Sensors
Drone tech has improved so far as to be able to not only track animals, but tag plant genders and scan plant vitality. Multispectral sensors have made this possible. Embedded in smart farming drones, they facilitate efficient plant and animal monitoring by registering body heat signatures, providing GPS coordinates, and can synchronize information in combination with geotagging sensors to find lost livestock. When managing hundreds if not thousands of square miles of crop or herding land, the ability to quickly identify a target for further study is critical.
5) Seed Planting and Plant Spraying
Agricultural UAVs may have attachments that allow farmers to use automatic fertilizer sprayers and seed dispersal mechanisms. Seeds can be attached to the drone, and the pilot can select the location for planting and release with a push of a button. Drone life notes that this method of planting is an efficient means of restoring endangered protected forests. Further, aerial spraying of fertilizer has been a common practice for years but entails renting aircraft which is expensive and could even present a safety hazard to nearby residents. UAVs help mitigate these issues and make aerial seed planting and spraying more practicable.
Sustainability-focused technology has already produced promising results and remains in its infancy. With each new development, the marketplace opens to more players, each bringing their unique understanding and expertise in sustainability – feeding the innovation engine over again.