Drone technology used to be a fantasy reserved for science fiction stories, but these days life is beginning to imitate art just a little more than anyone might have imagined even a decade ago. Today, with the FAA both loosening and tightening it’s grip on unmanned aircraft at the same time, the future of the industry is uncertain. Such uncertainty, however, has not stopped several industries from heavily investing in the new and exciting technology, an investment poised to bring massive change along with it.
Image Courtesy of FightingSquid on Flickr
Nearly everyone has heard of Amazon’s new drone delivery system. While some are skeptical of their timeline and others make plans to actively disrupt them, you can be sure that everyone is watching to see what happens next. Promising a 30-minute delivery window, Amazon could do for shipping what Domino’s once did for pizza, albeit with a much more fascinating delivery system.
Google doesn’t quite buy into the hype though, as their future shipping plans keep their feet, and wheels, firmly on the ground with the popular transportation service, Uber. A company with an infrastructure already in place that would allow more or less the same delivery window without all of the potential for unforeseen delays.
Chris Anderson, the co-founder of 3D Robotics thinks farming will be the first place drones will gain practical, more widespread usage. This is fairly likely, as unpopulated fields are the only place where drones are currently allowed by the FAA and only under 400 feet, at that. Drones could be used to more rapidly and accurately scan soil quality, water usage and pest outbreaks among crops. It would essentially add easily updated, real-time information about the farmland in a mere fraction of the time it would have taken to survey the land in the past.
Surveyors can now accomplish in days, what used to take weeks, and at a drastic reduction in cost. When EDF Energy planned to map the site of a future nuclear power plant, they also made several other discoveries thanks to their drone, such as unwanted debris, water pooling areas for flood control, and they even targeted asbestos for removal before any crew set foot on the property. The reduced cost allows companies to hire surveyors multiple times over the course of the same project, instead of just once at the beginning. This can allow the discovery or problems not visible before the start of construction, as well as to monitor the solutions of the initial issues, reducing the chances of unforeseen delays, hangups or other costly issues.
Rise of the Drones [PBS NOVA]
Facebook made some noise last week when they announced plans to buy Titan Aerospace for $60 million. The companies solar-powered drones are reportedly able to fly for up to 5 years without landing, which can essentially turn them into inexpensive satellites, able to provide Internet and other resources to the developing world; a public goal of Facebook. Connecting further portions of the world to Internet could have immeasurable effects as a whole new sample of people gain access to the power and potential of the information superhighway.
As drones become more common, we should expect innovators and visionaries to discover even more ways for the aircraft to aide our lives. No one knew how the smartphone would change the landscape of personal electronics, just imagine what game changers lie down the road, or the sky as it were, with drone technology.