The marketplace for drones is exploding with growth. According to PriceWaterCoopers House, the commercial and hobbyist drone market will expand to over $127 billion by 2020 – an absolutely staggering figure when the current market valuation – $2 billion – is taken into account. What can possibly account for a predicted 6000% growth spike?
Simple. Drones are going to change the world. And we’ve got a list of 6 ways drones and related technologies will shape your future – and the future of our planet.
- THE COST OF DRONES IS SINKING – FAST – SOON, EVERYONE CAN AFFORD A DRONE
As drones become more popular – both among hobbyists and professionals – the cost of developing, designing, and manufacturing them is on the decline.
This is due mainly to streamlined production processes, standardized manufacturers, and an economy of scale leading to higher quality, less expensive drone components – these savings are then passed on to the consumer, meaning a quality, inexpensive product that soon may be affordable to just about everybody.
It’s not just consumers, though – many businesses are now looking to drones to change the game, given their low cost. With the FAA beginning a commercial drone pilot program in 2016, it seems that the low cost and incredible versatility of drones are going to lead to a very diverse, exciting world for commercial drone pilots.
- DRONES CAN GO WHERE PEOPLE – AND OTHER AIRCRAFT – CAN’T
More and more, drones are being used to go places where people and other aircraft can’t – due to high costs, dangers to human life or expensive equipment, or small areas that aren’t conducive to other methods of exploration.
Because of this, drones are being used in novel and intriguing ways – such as to take samples and capture footage of live volcanoes where no human or aircraft could dare to tread.
Other unique drones used for these sorts of purposes include the AquaMAV – a winged drone modeled after seabirds that can both take to the skies and plunge to icy depths – and return in one piece. This drone, developed by a team at Imperial College in London, is a prototype designed to test the feasibility of using aquatic drones to gather water samples from hard-to-reach areas, or from hazardous sites like oil or chemical spills that would otherwise be off-limits or too costly to reach.
Drones are also being used to survey the sites of natural disasters, using video capture technology, in order to quickly get a better idea of conditions on the ground, and allow first responders to gather appropriate information to dispatch as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as possible.
Drones are also being used in humanitarian missions by the UN, to keep an eye on rebel fighters in war-torn regions of the globe, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in Rwanda. These eyes-in-the-sky serve as a powerful reminder that UN Peacekeepers are watching, and provide safe and cost-effective monitoring of the situations on the ground.
- DRONES CAN AID IN LAW ENFORCEMENT TASKS
Recently, a pilot program in Massachusetts launched, incorporating an $18,000 investment in top-of-the-line drones. These drones are mainly being used to help identify, reconstruct, and clear the sites of traffic accidents, and help get a bird’s-eye view of the scene without the requirement of an expensive helicopter.
The utilization of these drones is still fairly basic, but law enforcement officers around the nation express interest in the use of drones for monitoring, suspect tracking and engagement, and emergency/disaster response tools.
The information gathering ability of drones, combined with their low cost and high maneuverability and small size, could make them indispensable to the law-enforcement agencies of the future.
- DRONES CAN HELP FARMERS
Drones are being viewed with increasing interest by farmers interested in high-tech solutions to age-old problems – such as getting an idea about what areas of their crops are struggling and dispensing necessary solutions such as fertilizer and pesticides. According to the MIT Technology review, drones have a high potential to be game changers in the farming community, especially as cheap automation and lower drone prices make these tools more available both in the US and worldwide.
Using fleets of drones with high-resolution cameras flying above their fields, farmers can get an economically efficient idea of how their crops are doing, at a much higher resolution than satellite photos – and a much lower cost than standard aerial photography, which can run at $1000/hour at the low end, and be obstructed by clouds.
There are three main benefits to this – first, seeing crops from the air can reveal problems that are immediately apparent to a farmer’s trained eye – poor irrigation, fungal or pest attacks, and other common issues that crop up when farming.
Second, these aerial cameras can capture images not only from the standard spectrum but with infrared cameras and other tools, allowing a clearer picture of crops and their health than can be achieved with the naked eye.
Third, drones can be automated to scan crops weekly, daily, or even hourly – providing farmers with great, real-time information about their crops that was previously impossible to gather.
And while most applications of drones as actual plant fertilizers or pesticide sprayers are mostly in test stages right now, farm kids of the future may get used to seeing dozens of tiny drones spraying their crops hourly or daily, buzzing around the farm in automated groups and returning to shelters and hutches to recharge until the next rotation.
- DRONES CAN HELP DELIVER PACKAGES IN EXTREME CONDITIONS AND AREAS
Most are probably familiar with Amazon’s pilot drone delivery service which was, unfortunately, mostly quashed by the FAA’s new drone piloting guidelines. But while automated last-mile delivery may be a bit far off for the average consumer in the US, it’s being used in many extreme environments around the world – to great success.
In Switzerland, for example, drones are being used to deliver packages to hard-to-reach areas by the Swiss Postal service. Isolated Swiss villages and hamlets up in the mountains are often quite hard to reach via traditional methods, and these drones could help augment standard delivery services in the most remote areas, or when rush delivery is required – such as with medical supplies or other urgent information or packages.
And speaking of medical supplies – Malawi has begun, in partnership with UNICEF a trial program slated for early 2016 that will be used to help fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic that affects so many children in the country.
By using drones as a method by which to deliver the blood of newborn and young children to testing centers, the Malawian government hopes to decrease the time it takes to analyze blood samples and discover the HIV/AIDS virus – a process which can take up to several weeks when the samples are delivered by truck or motorbike.
It is urgent and important that these children get treatment as soon as possible, and the Malawian government has already completed several test trials of 10km deliveries of medical supplies to a local hospital.
In addition, these drones can be used to image natural disasters, such as droughts and flooding that are common in the region.
Further trials and the beginning of the program in earnest will begin in early 2017, and the success of this project is sure to lead to many more like it in the poorest, most needy nations on our planet.
- PROFESSIONAL DRONE PILOTS WILL BECOME COMMONPLACE – AND HIGHLY SOUGHT AFTER
As the FAA passed the first regulations for commercial drone pilots last year, nearly 30,000 drone pilots have been certified as commercially licensed pilots, and the sector is slated to grow to close to 100,000 jobs over the next few years. Since almost all commercial drones will require a pilot within line-of-sight due to the regulations passed, this market will only grow.
Chiefly, these jobs are predicted to be imaging jobs – land surveying, cinematography, extreme sports and outdoor imagery, and other such applications are likely to keep growing as drones drop in price and increase in video quality and fidelity, but as time goes on, we’re also likely to see these drones used in industrial applications, such as surveying factories and other large projects.
As drones continue to advance, it gets harder to predict what, exactly, commercial drone pilots will be expected to do, but if the investment of some top universities like UMA and a multitude of online certification schools are any indicator, drone pilots are certainly going to be in high demand.
This is certainly not the extent of the influence drones will have on the planet – indeed, it’s hard to predict how this technology will change the world, given its mass availability and customization to nearly any task that would previously have required a massive investment in an airplane or helicopter.
So no matter how drones change the world, you’ll want to keep an eye on this industry and keep learning about drones, their capabilities, and the ways in which they can be used to further the advancement of governments, businesses – and even mankind.
Guest Post by Admir Tulic
Tulic is a hobby dronist who runs 2 IG drone community pages and a website (dronepedia.xyz) on drones.