The rise of the drones. It sounds like the sinister plot of a science fiction movie. But right now, all around the world, the use of drones (or, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) is very much on the rise. There’s no need for worry, though. UAVs are an exciting new technology with benefits and vast potential we are still only beginning to realize.
It’s easy to understand why the word “drone” makes some people uneasy. Until recently, most people had only heard the word “drone” in association with the U.S. military, which employs UAVs like the Predator to eliminate enemies and “rain death from skies” at the press of a button. And, as in “manned” airstrikes, there are sometimes civilian casualties during such attacks. But just because drones have been used by the military, this doesn’t make them inherently dangerous. There are plenty of technological devices we now think of as perfectly common which had their origins in the military, including GPS and microwaves.
In the United States, many UAV-related incidents have recently become national news. Last year, a man flew his UAV through restricted airspace very close to the White House. A JetBlue pilot spotted one at 12,000 feet, right near his plane, and hundreds more sightings were reported by pilots to the FAA. There is also a great deal of discussion in the media about the potential uses of UAVs to spy and invade privacy.
Obviously, these kinds of stories have made many people apprehensive about the growing UAV trend. But it’s important to remember that UAVs are still a brand-new technology. Consumer UAVs have been on the market for only five years, and their designs, uses and capabilities are rapidly evolving. The introduction of new technologies are often met with skepticism, an uneasiness over the uncharted territory into which this new door may lead. And the introduction of new technology is inevitably followed by a period of adjustment during which basic rules and regulations are established so that people feel secure.
The popularity of consumer UAVs are supported by their prices. Some toy-like models can fit in your hand and cost under $100 while more sophisticated models, which can cost in the thousands, include features like 4K HD cameras and can fly much longer durations and distances. You can buy a UAV that’s ready to fly, or even build and customize your own.
As a proud UAV “pilot” for two years now, I’ve personally experienced the excitement and benefits of this great new technology. Designing, building and flying my own UAV have motivated me to learn all I can about aerodynamics, engineering, and even programming. It’s always thrilling to watch my quadcopter lift off and travel higher and farther than ever before.
There are so many advantages to UAV technology that we’ve only begun to realize their potential. Photographers can now get shots that were never before possible (without an actual helicopter), from close-ups of landmarks and monuments to aerial shots of surfers on the ocean. Beyond that, drones are now being used for important work as disaster rescue, replanting trees in the rainforest, and even delivering organs to patients in hospitals, when every second counts.
We really are at the dawn of the age of the drones — UAVs that is — and that’s an incredible thing to contemplate. Before we know it, quadcopters may be delivering our food orders and packages, and we won’t even have to tip. Some of us may even end up having our lives saved by a UAV. That’s why we need to keep an open mind about UAVs, instead of acting prematurely, cracking down to outlaw them before we even understand what they are and what they can do. The possibilities for good are virtually endless.