A Memorial Day parade bystander in Marblehead only had minor injuries after a drone crashed onto him last month, but the incident highlighted some of the concerns about safety and the stark lack of regulations for these high-tech, easily obtainable camera-equipped mini-helicopters.
What began as a niche aviation or photography hobby for some is now at the center of debate regarding potential invasions of privacy, applications as a law enforcement tool, and a long list of commercial uses. Local businesses are already popping up to use drones and several police departments, including the state police, are looking at training officers to use them.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has predicted that drone sales will top $82 billion worldwide by the end of the decade. And with no concrete laws on the books in the U.S. yet, drones are growing in popularity faster than the government can pass regulations. The technology has become so accessible that somebody looking to purchase one only needs to take a trip to the local mall.
According to Andrew Amato, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hopkinton-based website dronelife.com, there are two main types of drone hobbyists: flight enthusiasts and photography enthusiasts. The flight enthusiasts see these flying robots as fascinating toys and one of the main appeals of drones is that they not only outperform old model radio-controlled airplanes, but they’re more user-friendly with simpler controls.
Photographers see drones as an invaluable tool giving them access to previously impossible shots.
“A lot of these people have visions for photos that they could never get otherwise,” Amato said. The drones let amateur photographers get aerial views that were only achievable by helicopters or complex pulley systems before.
Filmmakers have also begun taking advantage of this technology. The first New York City Drone Film Festival was held in March. Searching Youtube for “Drone Footage” provides a plethora of videos showing close-ups of landmarks such as the Seattle Space Needle and sweeping flights over cliffs and canyons.
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