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By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Some say that drones represent the next major tech revolution. Two essential facts about drone technology: first, they are not toys and second, they’re here to stay. Drones – also known as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – and their onboard computers are changing everyday life and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, taking cameras to places where people cannot go.

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The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) estimates that drones will contribute 70,000 jobs and $13.6 billion to the United States economy within the first three years once restrictions on their use for commercial flight have been lifted. 

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has said, “Drones overall will be more impactful than I think people recognize, in positive ways to help society.” 

FAA Drone Regulations Sought

While drone testing continues, companies with ambitious plans, such as Amazon, Wal-Mart and Facebook, are currently restricted by US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approvals. In consultation with NASA and the Department of Transportation, the FAA must produce rules for flying altitudes, no-fly zones, weight limitations, and the avoidance of mid-air collisions. Once these approvals are put in place, we can expect a big boost to commercial use of drones. 

Drones Are Transporting Us Into the Future

CES, the annual Las Vegas congress that is the world’s largest event for the business of consumer technologies, indicates that these high-flying machines are impacting sports, travel, retail, distribution, freight transportation, construction, natural resources exploration, agriculture, law enforcement, search and rescue, disaster relief, storm tracking, and environmental protection. All these opportunities are on top of the obvious military uses for unmanned aircraft systems. There’s a drone, it seems, for everything.

Drones in the Marketplace

Amazon has been delivering by drone since 2013. While it’s been just a trickle of activity to date, Amazon has indicated that it plans to increase deliveries to 80 percent or more of their shipments in the near future. Small packages, pizzas, beverages, medicines and more will move short distances in good time without the drawback of traffic delays. Since this will also mean fewer vehicles on the roads, the impact cannot be understated. 

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Spectator Sports and Broadcasting

Everyone enjoyed the newness of exhilarating aerial views from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi for competitions in world-class skiing and snowboarding. Spectators will continue to enjoy live action coverage of major events benefiting from a bird’s eye view captured in drone coverage beamed around the world.  

Perfect Vision with Drones

Amazing capabilities. Did you know that a drone carrying a sensor with 1.8 billion pixels can spot what someone is wearing from a distance of 17,500 feet? The ability to see this degree of detail—items as small as six inches—from more than three miles away has massive implications for government and private industry.

Will Drones Conquer Internet Access?

One ambitious Facebook-led project has been curtailed for the moment. Known as Aquila, Facebook was developing a high altitude solar-driven drone that could bring internet access to remote places everywhere around the globe. The plan with the potential to affect approximately 4 billion people was shelved in mid-2018, so developments in this space will bear watching. 



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