Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), more commonly known as drones, are progressing at an exponential pace. Pocket sized, micro drones can launch off fingertips. Large versions equipped with 4k video are readily available to the public, and are becoming increasingly affordable and user-friendly. Organic-looking animalistic drones have started being developed. Even the appearance of drones have been constantly changing and updating as Disney plans to sell a Millennium Falcon drone.
It is certain that drones have already made a lasting mark on the world. What’s in store for the future of UAV tech helps solidify its true potential.
UAV’s resembling the drones of today surface as far back as the early 1900’s and the First World War. Drones didn’t seem feasible outside of warfare up until the last decade or so.
The Army Special Forces uses a small 4 inch long pocket drone called Black Hornet for many unique situations. This helicopter style drone is light as a feather, weighing only 0.6 ounces! The military also uses larger drones for everything from supplying drops-offs, to surveillance, to controversial drone weaponry.
The hype behind Amazon’s drone delivery service is arguably responsible for bringing mainstream attention to UAV’s. The potential for drone based delivery systems is sky high. Since we live in a society that praises speed and convenience, this idea will be increasingly executed by companies looking toward the future.
Imagine if you were able to have packages delivered in hours rather than days. Would this change the way you shop, budget, and live? Delivery drones are no longer science fiction. They are quickly becoming an accepted concept, embraced by society. A prime example is this festival in South Africa using drones as a beer delivery service.
Farming definitely benefits from automation and strict planning. Recently, North Dakota became the forefront of the drone farming collaboration. FAA-approved drones are now being used to perform various agricultural tasks including monitoring crops for pests, and testing soil quality.
Ironically, North Dakota was also the first state to give police the authority to mount non-lethal weaponry on their drones for use in protests and other special circumstances.
Police officers and drone tech have joined forces. In regards to the recent laws passed for weaponized police UAV’s, the intent of the legislation backfired. Originally the purpose of the proposal was to make sure drones were not weaponized. The outcome, however, proved to be counterproductive.
Republican state Rep. Rick Becker, the original proposer of the new law, stated:
"In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponized. Period."
That’s not to say that all connections between the police and drones are negative. Police forces utilize drones for cost-effective alternatives to search and rescue efforts and to eliminate danger related to risky situations. Drones can also be used for surveillance and in sensitive hostage situations. In an ideal world, police UAV’s would only be used to benefit human lives, and not function as a weaponized upper hand for ‘big brother’ police empowerment.
Filmmakers are always searching for the next best thing. They want the richest video quality, and the most unique angles. Fortunately, drones help make this a much cheaper alternative to renting boom cranes, lifts, etc. They can now soar to levels previously unimaginable with smaller and better equipped cameras than just a decade ago.
HEXO+ the filmmaking drone, was designed with the novice filmmaker in mind. It uses algorithms to literally fly and shoot video autonomously based upon the pre-programmed functions inputted by the user. When filming more difficult shots without expensive equipment, like aerial panning of a large scale scenery or shooting action sports athletes, drone-based filming techniques will rise to the top.
Here is a brief display of a drone capturing an incredibly beautiful fireworks display:
Gaming & Virtual Reality
Let’s not forget the gaming industry. Will drones somehow become the interface for flight based interactive gaming? While that is uncertain, the relativity of drones already segues into the world of virtual reality. Oculus Rift FPV allows users to see from drones-eye-view.
This has created an entire new sports category of drone racing. Last month, the venture-capital firm started by the majority owner of the Miami Dolphins, invested $ 1 million in the Drone Racing League. This trend is catching on quickly and we are starting to see the competition heat up globally.
Natural disasters are difficult to predict, even with the many advancements in various detection technology systems. Drones can help aid in surviving a natural disaster and can offer relief by delivering crucially important supplies to remote places. Constant surveillance drones can pick up on odd behaviors expressed by wildlife, which often times occurs before a major natural disaster (as long as they don't get too close to the animals). The harsh effects of forest fires, tsunamis, avalanches, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes can be alleviated with help from automated drones.
STEM learning is as important as ever, especially when related to early education and getting the next generations interested at an early age.
Edventures is a program that sparks interests in STEM based learning to younger generations. Kids learn valuable hands-on skills , embrace mathematics, think in a critical scientific manner, and are encouraged to build drones and other electronics.
Drones are more widely available to the public than ever. Everyone from farmers and teachers, to filmmakers and athletes and yes, even police officers, can enjoy the new technological benefits of drones.
Will we one day have autnomous drones that fly us from place to place? Only time will tell...