One of the fastest growing technologies as well as one of the most growing polarizing issues is over the use of drones, or more appropriately named UAVs (Unmanned aerial vehicles).
Used by the military and in recent years by a wide range of businesses employing quadcopters, airplanes, and helicopters, drones have been in the skies for a while. However, major waves made by Amazon and more recently the ruling by a federal judge in the case of a photographer with Team Blacksheep vs. the FAA that found commercial drones to be legal has brought this issue to the front of newspapers, and with it has drawn a line between people and what they think about a future with camera-enabled, buzzing objects flying overhead.
In case you aren't aware of what these drones are capable, here ya go:
- Aerial film/photography of farms, golf courses, construction, commercial/residential real estate development
- GIS, mapping, surveying, remote sensing
- Search & rescue, wildlife management, anti-poaching, bomb squad, nuclear inspections, oil & gas
All of these typically would require a helicopter or expensive satellite imagery. Now, a small company operating out of a home garage can wire together services and deliver these to major clients.
However, there are realistic fears. For one, air traffic is constantly growing. The United States' domestic air traffic consistently grows both in capacity and demand, with demand often outpacing capacity. That means more planes in the air. Now, add a bunch of commercial drones capable of flying well into air traffic zones and you have a real problem.
That's why the FAA has taken a long time to make regulations, which in effect makes commercial drone use a "grey area" right now, despite the federal ruling. The FAA has issued several cease and desist warnings to businesses, but for the most part they go on operating with little fear. Websites popping up now listing drone and UAV pros and businesses for hire like hireuavpro.com are a clear indication that the surge in the industry is putting added pressure on the FAA to come up with a set or regulations for businesses to follow so they can continue to work.
The other major fear is with privacy. However, it's hard to take this seriously despite the fact that drones do have the ability to record and track you. The reason for that is the internet. People willingly put more information on the internet than any small drone with a camera with ~ 10-15 minutes of flight time could gather on you. In fact, there's a traffic camera on nearly every corner in the country, GPS data has been free and open to anyone who wants to use it since the 1980's, and you'd have a better chance having your photo taken by the Google map truck than by a commercial drone.
The bottom line is that this industry is an all out game changer. The air space directly above us, the space that large buildings in major cities like Chicago used to be the sole owners of, now must compete with buzzing, filming objects. But imagine the possibilities? Our children will be inventing things to do with drones that we can't possibly imagine right now.
So how do you feel about these objects? Are you ready for the age of the drones?