The Federal Aviation Administration is currently conducting extensive research along with six universities at different sites in the U.S. The research is aimed at developing standards to regulate the use of drones and we can expect to see more drones being used, not only by the military, but commercial enterprises appear ready to jump into the fray.
In Australia, a company named Zookai is already using drones to deliver rental textbooks and in the U.S., Amazon has announced plans to begin using drones to deliver packages. A Dominos franchise in the UK has also tested the use of drones to deliver pizza.
Drones are remotely controlled, battery-operated unmanned aerial vehicles that use Global Positioning Systems to find their destinations. The GPS is exactly the same technology used in many vehicles. The U.S. military has been using the technology in fighting terrorism around the globe, but as the technology improves and costs decrease the use is expected to be adopted by civilians and more commercial enterprises. The efforts to improve the operation of drones has centered on improving the life and power of the batteries,while the designs are more efficient.
We can readily expect to see many more drones in the skies as the costs decline, and it is not the costs that concerns officials, but proper and safer implementation of the disruptive technology. Hobbyists can now find drones on auction sites, but the use may be prohibited in several states.
The workhorse drone used by U.S. military forces, known as the Raven, is designed to use customized software and costs $76,000 for each unit. A non-profit organization known as Mitre, in cooperation with the University of Virginia has recently created the Razor, which is an unmanned drone that costs only $2000. The Razor is made with a 3D printer and can be controlled with an Android device that includes free downloaded apps.
The smart phone and mobile units are an ideal fit for the operation of drones because they include GPS and video cameras along with receivers that can be used for tracking; this is another area where there may be cause for concern. Hackers may be able to find ways to attack drones in the skies and commandeer them in much the same way that computers are attacked.
However the exploration and research is expected to continue as there are many different scenarios where we can expect to find the use of drones offering outstanding benefits. They are much more than robots. Drones are used to better understand the creation and working of environmental forces such as storms and hurricanes. They are also used to survey the landscape and in the creation of 3D maps. Another area where the use of drones is being considered is for aerial surveillance in high crime areas.
Of course, there are several other issues such as privacy and safety that must be addressed, but as the prices decline, the uses of drones will only be limited by the imagination as they become more readily available.
By: Dale Davidson