Unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones, have a tremendous futuristic mystique about them, even though they are well established present-day technologies. That idea seems even more ironic given the fact that drones have been around since 1849. And just like the killer drone attacks we hear about in the media today, the very first one carried a bomb.
There’s no doubt that militaries across the globe will latch on to new and emerging technologies to use as instruments of war. But just like the internet spawned Facebook, Twitter, Amazon.com and live streaming, drones have immense potential to affect our daily lives at every level. Here is a list of 10 ways that drones will undoubtedly change the future.
10. Party Drones
It seems like all cutting technology enjoys huge entertainment value. We seem to play more games, videos, music and social media on our personal computers than we do actual work. The cell phone’s game and entertainment apps far exceed its straight-forward communication uses. So, it’s not surprising that the Guinness World Record holder for the largest drone swarm, Intel, is taking the tech party to new heights. The chip-making company’s new drone, Shooting Star, puts on an aerial LED light show with 4 billion color possibilities. Yes, that’s a “B” for BILLION! Think in terms of outdoor festivals like Bonnaroo, New Year’s Eve, half-time at the Super Bowl or big giant outdoor raves. Designed to fly over the head’s of large crowds, it’s made of foam and rain resistant materials. Drones will usher in such tremendous visual effects that entertainment-insiders may soon be promoting “Drone Parties.”
9. Search and Rescue Drones
The days of mass search parties spread 10-feet apart trekking through dense forests may soon be over. For about a decade, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has been fiddling with the use of drones as a way find people. Called SkySeer, the drone has more positive applications than just beating the streets for police work. SkySeer can scan areas with magnifying glass capability. For people lost out in the mountains or Amber Alerts, police now have a new tool to find and rescue those in harm’s way. Think in terms of adding technology such as infra red, night vision and heat sensory abilities. Search and rescue drones can go anywhere, anytime. SkySeer and other such drones may soon be saving lives.
8. Farm Drones
Drones are proving far more efficient than many of the current methods used by farmers in terms of sowing, protecting, watering and harvesting healthy produce. Farmers may soon be pre-programming drones with scouting routes to fly over large tracts of land and create 3-D soil maps that can be analyzed back in the bunkhouse. Innovative farmers can take that information and determine which areas need or will need greater nutrients, water or even a year to rest the land. Seed-sowing drones can reportedly reduce planting costs by up to 85 percent. Crop-dusting planes are also likely to become an invention of the past. Low-flying drones have the ability to scan the crop and determine where treatments are needed. The result will be a huge reduction in mass pesticides sprayings and fewer chemicals entering the environment. Basically, drones are on the cusp of being the greatest farming invention since the work boot.
7. Herding Drones
We all enjoy that classic image of sheep dogs directing a herd. But when a rancher’s sheep or cattle herd reaches many thousands, dogs are not tremendously practical. Also, dogs cannot report on injured or sick animals that may stray or fall behind. In Australia, ranchers are beginning to supplement sheep dogs with quadcopters to keep a closer eye on their livestock. Obviously large ranches will be able to take full advantage of drone technologies such as sound, projectiles and video to repel predators, poachers and move herds to richer pastures. At some point, keeping track of livestock will look more like someone watching one of those video screens in a convenience store than a cowhand and a collie.
6. Home Security Drones
The state of home security generally consists of an alarm system and maybe a guard dog. The problem with that are all the false alarms that lead to police visits and calls from the monitoring company. And, not everyone is a pet person. In its infancy stages, the Sunflower Home Awareness System utilizes motion, vibration and sound recognition technology that triggers smart-lights and deploys a drone. The Sunflower system plans to integrate AI elements so that drones can distinguish between dogs, cats, cars and actual intruders. It can hover above visitors and delivery people and send you a quick smartphone notification. This allows homeowners to be aware of every coming and going on their property. To say Sunflower outpaces standard alarm systems would be quite an understatement. Drones are the vigilant future guardians that never rest.
5. Bodyguard Drones
Remember that Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner flick, The Bodyguard, where she basically played her celebrity self and he was the Samurai-minded, paid personal protector. Costner ended up taking a bullet. While professional security personnel aren’t likely to be out of work anytime soon, drones are a big part of the future of personal safety. Police are already getting clearance for the non-lethal weaponization of drones to handle angry mobs and riots. Desert Wolfe’s Skunk, for instance, is paint-ball-barrel armed and can fire pepper-spray and rubber bullets. In terms of personal use, Amazon’s UAV Assistant is a mini drone with the capability of hovering over you while you trek through a high-crime neighborhood or walk to your car alone at night. It’s a personal eye in the sky that can snap a selfie of would-be assailants. Getting caught is a sure deterrent to criminals. It’s only a matter of time until personal security drones are armed with a can of Mace. Drones may soon put bad guys out of business.
4. Conservation Drones
It appears Africa’s wildlife will soon be under the protection of a new guardian, drones.
The Kruger National Park in Johannesburg is making a big investment into drone technology to thwart poachers. In South Africa, the park’s unmanned, anti-poaching drone force can monitor large areas for two and a half hours at a time before returning to base. That’s important because the park spans nearly 20,000 square miles and the deployment of drones is expected to be a dramatic game-changer in the protection of endangered species and turn the tide on big game trophy hunters. The Kruger National Park is home to at least 10 endangered species including the Black Rhinoceros who will soon enjoy a stealthy watchful eye.
3. Crime Fighting Drones
In the movies, the Gotham police department’s best friend in covert law enforcement is Batman. He moves through the night ever present, unheard and unseen. That’s exactly what drones are like in combating crime. Police are moving forward with drones to conduct more effective stakeouts and criminal surveillance. They far out-pace fixed cameras because they can move around with suspects and can be equipped with video and listening devices. If you’re a “CSI” watcher, you probably hear a lot about crime scene contamination. Drones are being employed as a first wave that can take photos and zoom in on fine details before a human disturbs anything. The information gathering capabilities of drones makes them uniquely efficient at police work going forward.
2. Inspection Drones
In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded dumping millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. The reports of government regulators skipping 25 percent of the required inspections and others being nothing more than a rubber stamp shocked the world. One of the largest environmental disasters in history happened without the faulty rig ever being placed on a watch list. Fortunately, you cannot con a drone with a nice smile and a handshake. Innovations in drone technology such as those at Cyberhawk Innovations are clearing a path for close and regular inspections of refineries and other high-risk industrial operations. Heights, heat, chemicals and dangerous environments won’t be a problem for drones to go much further and be far more consistent at keeping workers and the environment safe.
1. The Drones of War
The War on Terror has prompted the U.S. military to enlist drones as a way to target the forces of groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. Drones are crossing borders to hunt down enemies in countries outside the war zone, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the last 12 years, between incorrect intelligence and collateral damage, about 500 friendlies have lost their lives because of poorly planned and executed drone attacks. But that’s just the beginning of their death-from-above uses.
The drones of war may take a giant leap forward during the next five to ten years and any nation willing to make a major investment could emerge as a military superpower. The U.S. Department of Defense has forewarned that long-range drones can and likely will be armed with electromagnetic pulse cannons capable of crippling any country’s electronic infrastructure with one fell swoop. Imagine that everything with electronics ceases to function, from the internet to refrigerators to home heating systems. The death toll would be staggering. Along those lines, China is on the cutting edge with its long-range stealth drone, Sharp Sword, that can slip by radar systems undetected. Future military superiority may come down to who has the best and most drones, not boots on the ground.