Consumer drones are now functional enough for commercial and professional uses. Photography, delivery, research and surveillance — drones are used for a multitude of reasons and purposes. Back in 1977, “Star Wars” made popular the idea of unmanned drones that served humanity, yet they were still a thing of the future. But now that you can find them on the shelves, what is the future of drones and how will they be used? Here’s a look.
Consumer drones have come a long way in the last five years. Once thought of as curious toys, they are now indispensable tools for amateur aerial photographers as well as fairly sophisticated programmable aircraft. However, the drones used for photography are fragile and sometimes limited in options, while the semi-programmable drones are better left for the technology and code savvy users, as they need a monitor or attendant in case of glitches.
In April of 2015, DJI released the newest iteration of their Phantom line, a model with a high def 1080p camera, or a 4k on the higher-end models. These drones also come with some comprehensive video editing software.
San Francisco-based drone company 3D Robotics responded with a quad copter named Solo, also geared toward the aerial photography market.
Driverless cars are already on the road in certain states. But how do drone cars fit into the current laws and restrictions, and how close is the technology to support such vehicles?
Rinspeed, a Swiss manufacturer, will debut just such a vehicle in January of 2016. It will have not only its own autopilot, but also an aerial companion that flies alongside this hybrid sports car.
However, some experts think this may be too much too soon. Chris Gerdes, a professor of engineering at Stanford University, has warned companies of the implications of an autonomous car. But Rinspeed will move ahead with their concept, and this semi-autonomous car will even have a small landing pad for its aerial drone counterpart.
With so many changes on the road, traffic laws will change as well. Make sure you know the rules of the road in your state when you get behind the wheel.
While waterproof aerial drones have made a splash in recent months, underwater drones are also on the market. The U.S. Navy has tested unmanned submarines in the past, and now those interested in underwater photography can get the best shots without ever wetting their toes.
The most sensational drone application is in connection with Amazon.com. Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos has the ambitious goal for Amazon to deliver packages with drones via the air. Drone deliveries would be used only for orders that weigh 5 pounds or less and are within 10 miles of the distribution center. While Amazon Prime Air is still some years away, Bezos and his e-commerce giant are on the brink of optional hourly delivery.
However, Victor Allis, chief executive of Quintiq, thinks drone delivery is impracticable. “This service would be about as commonplace as people taking a private helicopter to work,” he said via CNET.