Saturday, November 17, 2018
Articles

Drones: They’re Not Just Toys Anymore

When you hear the word drone, it is impossible not to hear toys for overgrown boys. After all, just look at who is buying them and playing with them. It is hard to argue that they are doing anything but playing with an expensive toy. After all, we have seen this all before.

Remember remote-controlled cars, boats, planes, and helicopters? Drones flew onto store shelves in the same toy stores and novelty shops. Same customer, different SKU. These RC amusements have typically been targeted at child-men trapped in a state of arrested development in possession of more dollars than sense. But drones have a life beyond fun and games.

Drones entered the common vernacular as tools of the military. They were unmanned aircraft used for surveillance and remote weapons release. A good drone could be the difference between victory and defeat. While products like Protocol New York RC drones are not military grade, they do have utility beyond diversionary entertainment. Here are a few:

Package Delivery

A few years ago, Amazon made a splash during a Charlie Rose interview by revealing their secret plans to deliver packages via drones. Shortly after that announcement, Amazon was looking to test same-day delivery drones in Cambridge, England. Since that time, other companies have announced plans to make deliveries via drone.

UPS delivered its first package by drone in February, 2017. Amazon completed a drone delivery in late 2017. But right now, delivery by drone is still a proof of concept. It will be some time before it leaves the testing phase. Besides the technology that still needs to be worked out, there are regulations that have to be created. Our infrastructure, neither technical nor political, is ready for delivery drones just yet. But like self-driving cars, we are well on our way.

Journalism

Drone Journalism is a thing, so much so, there are new regulations for journalists who use drones in their work. Think about all the things that used to take a large camera crew and helicopters to accomplish. Much of that can be done with a single reporter and a drone operator.

Weather, traffic, disaster overview: the sky is no longer the limit for small news outlets. No longer does an independent reporter need a stable of helicopters to do their job when aerial videography and photography are involved.

This has massive implications for citizen journalism powered by enterprising bloggers. They can acquire a professional drone and license to operate it for a fraction of what it costs to charter a helicopter twice. This opens up the possibility of getting more accurate information out to the public faster than ever.

Fighting Fire

Drones can save lives. In fact, they already are. Fire services have already started using drones as rescue goes hi-tech. Drones aid in finding missing persons. On-board thermal imaging sensors make detecting body heat possible.

Remember that military drones can drop weapons in remote places. Firefighting drones can dispense firefighting chemicals in the same way.

It is conceivable that police departments will also be able to use drones to surveil an area, look into upper windows, dispense tear gas, and enter places too dangerous for a human. Today, police departments use K9 units for many tasks that sensor-laden drones could do. The possibilities are endless.

There are many things an individual can do with a drone to help them with daily tasks. Even now, drones are transforming agriculture. Small drones might just help you find your way out of a forest. Maybe you can’t reach high ground. But if you have a small drone in your pack, you can send it up as high as 400 ft and get an areal view of your surroundings, enabling you to easily find your way out.

All of these uses ironically start by playing with drones as toys. Because you can’t do any of these things until you learn to fly them in almost any conceivable situation. So go ahead and grab a drone. You never know when you might need to deliver something, do a bit of journalism, fight a fire, or survey some farm land.

Bob Buskirk
the authorBob Buskirk
About 10 years of computer experience. Been messing around with electronics since I was 5, got into computers when I was in highschool, been modding them ever since then. Very interested in how things work and their design.
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