from Market Watch
As tech companies and startups tout the good and fabulous things about drones, it’s important to consider all the aspects that these whirring unmanned devices will have on our future.
Here’s your world with drones, circa 2024.
If Amazon.com Inc. has its way, you won’t have to worry about running out of baby formula at 2 a.m. Ding-dong. Drone delivery.
Lost hiking in Nepal? Throw that pocket drone you packed with the water-purification tablets into the air. It’ll scan the area, give you a location and maybe send an SOS to your pals at home.
And when you finally reach camp, chances are you’ll be able to catch up on a few hundred work emails. By then, Google Inc.’s Titan Aerospace drones will be high in the atmosphere on solar power, looping in even the remotest goat herder. Or maybe you’ll share a photo of that awesome Himalayan sunrise via a Facebook Inc. high-altitude drone.
But don’t even think of parking in a handicapped space for five minutes. The meter-maid drone has you ticketed before your feet have hit the pavement. And by all means forget an O.J.-style car chase with the police hot on your tail. Do you even want to imagine what a Robocop drone could do?
The U.S. military has been using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) since World War I to conduct all kinds of operations in dangerous territory, including killing opponents. Given what we know now about how closely the National Security Agency has been keeping tabs on U.S. citizens, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine unmanned airborne spy patrols.
That would put us in George Orwell territory. No, Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” didn’t envision drones — just a population under constant surveillance. Remember Winston trudging home past signs warning “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” to an apartment that featured an always-on tele-screen listening in, and windows observed by flying police patrols. Orwell’s patrols seemed to be manned, but the idea is the same: Spying eyes were everywhere, and today’s drone technology could make it feasible.
“We are a lot of times assuming that the tool is benign or that everyone’s intentions are benign, but are they?” asked Peter Woolley, a political-science professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and founder of its PublicMind research institute. “Like all tools, they can be used well and for ill.”
Catching poachers, beer delivery
Some of the positive aspects are novel. Drones are helping fight forest fires in California. They’re also helping prevent rhinoceros poaching in Kenya. In both cases, they’re doing something it would be costly or dangerous for manned aircraft to perform.
Silicon Valley is waiting with bated breath. Commercial drones are not yet legal in the U.S. yet. But ever since Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos surprised Charlie Rose of “60 Minutes” last December with a demonstration of delivery drones his company has been working on for years, commercial drones have been the talk of tech. The burgeoning industry is ready to take off, from selling real estate to crop dusting, reports the Mercury News , once rules are set and drones get a go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com