Miniature, pilotless aircraft are on the verge of becoming commonplace
THE scale and scope of the revolution in the use of small, civilian drones has caught many by surprise. In 2010 America’s Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) estimated that there would, by 2020, be perhaps 15,000 such drones in the country. More than that number are now sold there every month. And it is not just an American craze. Some analysts think the number of drones made and sold around the world this year will exceed 1m. In their view, what is now happening to drones is similar to what happened to personal computers in the 1980s, when Apple launched the Macintosh and IBM the PS/2, and such machines went from being hobbyists’ toys to business essentials.
That is probably an exaggeration. It is hard to think of a business which could not benefit from a PC, whereas many may not benefit (at least directly) from drones. But the practical use of these small, remote-controlled aircraft is expanding rapidly. After dragging its feet for several years the FAA had, by August, approved more than 1,000 commercial drone operations. These involved areas as diverse as agriculture (farmers use drones to monitor crop growth, insect infestations and areas in need of watering at a fraction of the cost of manned aerial surveys); land-surveying; film-making (some of the spectacular footage in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was shot from a drone, which could fly lower and thus collect more dramatic pictures than a helicopter); security; and delivering things (Swiss Post has a trial drone-borne parcel service for packages weighing up to 1kg, and many others, including Amazon, UPS and Google, are looking at similar ideas).
The drones’ club
Nor is commerce the only area in which drones are making a mark. A glance at the academic world suggests many more uses await discovery. Because drones are cheap, geographers who could never afford conventional aerial surveys are able to use them to track erosion, follow changes in rivers’ sources and inspect glaciers. Archaeologists and historians are taking advantage of software that permits drones fitted with ordinary digital cameras to produce accurate 3D models of landscapes or buildings. This lets them map ancient ruins and earthworks. Drones can also go where manned aircraft cannot, including the craters of active volcanoes and the interiors of caves. A drone operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts, has even snatched breath samples from spouting whales for DNA analysis. And drones are, as might be expected, particularly useful for studying birds. A standard shop-bought drone can, for example, be used unmodified for counting nests high in a forest’s canopy.
Public servants, too, are putting drones through their paces. In the case of nest-counting, the idea is not to disturb the wildlife in question. In Ottawa officials have taken the opposite approach, with a “goosebuster” drone that is fitted with speakers which play the calls of birds of prey. This has kept a city park on Petrie Island free from the hundreds of geese whose droppings were causing problems. Police in Michigan are considering using drones for mapping the scenes of accidents, so that roads can be reopened more quickly. And drones can save lives, as well as keeping parks clean and traffic moving. In June, for example, Frank Roma, a fireman, rescued two boys from a river in Maine with the help of a drone. The boys were stuck on a rock in the middle of a powerful current. Mr Roma employed a drone to carry a line out to them, along which he passed life jackets that they were able to put on before an inflatable boat went out to perform the tricky manoeuvre of picking them up.
Other roles for drones are more questionable.
The Latest on: UAVs and Drones
via Google News
The Latest on: UAVs and Drones
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- DHS Issues Alert Concerning Chinese-Made Drones on May 22, 2019 at 9:59 pm
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- World's largest drone maker to start putting airplane, helicopter detectors in nearly all machines on May 22, 2019 at 4:12 pm
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- Future DJI consumer drones will have built-in tech to avoid airplanes on May 22, 2019 at 3:11 pm
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- Film and TV Productions Are Using Drones for Scouting Locations, Lighting and More on May 22, 2019 at 11:45 am
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- New FAA rules for recreational drone flyers introduce temporary no-fly zones and a training requirement on May 22, 2019 at 6:15 am
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- Homeland Security reportedly warns of Chinese-made drones stealing data on May 21, 2019 at 10:20 am
On its unmanned aircraft systems page, CISA lists the threats of using drones as being weaponized or smuggling payloads, prohibited surveillance and reconnaissance, intellectual property theft, and ... […]
- U.S Government Warns Chinese-Made Drones May Be Secretly Sharing Data With China on May 20, 2019 at 3:32 pm
Such drone manufacturers, warns the DHS ... Those concerns apply with equal force to certain Chinese-made (unmanned aircraft systems)-connected devices capable of collecting and transferring ... […]
- Drones are making refineries and petrochemical plants safer, more efficient on May 20, 2019 at 9:55 am
Drones — less colloquially known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — are being increasingly used in refinery and petrochemical operations across the country. Some sites have moved beyond the ... […]
- Tech firms vying to sell drones, robots and other unmanned systems to the military on May 10, 2019 at 2:45 pm
Hoping to capitalize on an imagined future in which robots are on the front lines of warfare, defense contractors are making new investments in small, portable drone systems that can surveil enemy ... […]
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