[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t Might Seem Like Drones are Everywhere and Being Used for Everything, But the Industry is Just Getting its Wings!
Compared to (less than) five years ago, it seems like drone usage is everywhere you look. Amazon is using Prime Air drones to do their dirty work, delivery companies are exploring ways to use them to their advantage, and even rescue workers are using them to map disaster areas. Bonus fact: Uber also recently announced they want to use them as flying taxis in a Jetsons-like plan It may seem that drones are in the prime time, at least trend-wise, but some experts think otherwise, they think we’re nowhere near seeing the potential of drone use.
What is a Drone?
Backing things up a little, it’s important to understand what a drone actually is. Most people think of them as either gadgets for rich and bored people to play with, or war weapons, not quite. The term drone encompasses those things, yes, but it’s a blanket term for any unmanned aircraft, from basic to mind-blowing machines that are loaded with extremely advanced technologies. From a type of flying borescope, of sorts, to survey a roof machines that can fly for a year at a time without maintenance, drones are impressive, but they’ve got a long ways to go.
This brings us back to the original point that what they are, and what they’re being used to do, isn’t anywhere near where they could end up. Anything that uses onboard computer-controlled cameras and mapping technology have massive potential for everyday use in many different industries and sectors. In the upcoming years, expect to see them in heavy operation for retail industries, farming, law enforcement, construction, transportation, entertainment, and even insurance agencies. There could be a day in the near future where the human element of delivery (of anything) is eliminated, and law enforcement is using them to track criminals instead of engaging in high-speed pursuits.
We Haven’t Even Begun to See the Drone Potential
We’re starting to see hints of this happening already, but not on the scale it will likely be at soon enough. Director of the University of Marylands’s UAS Test Site, Matt Scassero, thinks that drones are going to be extremely important to technology and robotics, if not the most important uses of autonomous technology. Scassero promotes the technology saying “In barely a century, the world has gone from inventing manned flight to pioneering unmanned flight. It’s breathtaking.”
Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder and technology superhero, says that “Drones overall will be more impactful than I think people recognize, in positive ways to help society.” So that’s quite the endorsement. Of course, Microsoft has a huge vested interest in drones as they continue to push unmanned aircraft technology.
At the end of last year, a McKinsey & Company study shows a huge commercial growth in the U.S. drone industry, noting that the industry went from having a $40 million value in 2012 to a billion dollars in 2017. Over 300 major companies are looking for ways to use these flying robots to save time and resources in their operations. In the report, McKinsey estimates that by 2026, the consumer and commercial use of drones will have an annual impact of $31-$46 billion on the economy.
Drones in Day-to-Day Operations
Drones can be either disruptive or constructive, it all depends on how they are implemented. A major thing to note is how a company will be using them, and how realistic their goals are when developing a drone plan. It’s safe to say that a lot of smaller businesses will have to take the trickle-down technology and processes as they come. Not many small business owners will be able to afford drones that cost as much as semi-trucks to make pizza deliveries to their customers. And to counter that, as the technology becomes more universally understood, it’s safe to say that one day, yes, a local pizza shop will be able to afford to send out deliveries on drones as the cost comes down and production is more comprehensive.
Worried about drones putting you out of work now? Don’t be. These have the potential of creating tens of thousands of new jobs, from design to production. They won’t be eliminating the human element from the workforce, they’ll be freeing up resources to be redirected to other areas of a business. Going back to the pizza scenario, if you’re worried that your boss will replace you with a drone because it’s your job to deliver pizzas, but they can do it easier with drones, there’s more reason to be hopeful than not. Now your boss has more money to hire in higher up positions and invest in employee training. Plus, completely new industries will sprout as a result.
There are still many challenges ahead for drones, especially until a comprehensive air traffic control system is in place for managing drones in the skies. There are also still some safety concerns that will require development and refinement of features. Once those considerations start to smooth out, expect to see these flying robots at home, school and work.