(Source: Digital Journal)
Drone technology traces its roots all the way back to 1849 when they started out as remote controlled airplanes. Major advances have been made since that time, and experts believe that drone usage is about to skyrocket.
Although most people immediately think of military applications for drones, the reality is that they can be utilized for a wide range of non-military applications varying from tracking endangered species to delivering packages.
To help get a better view of what the future of this technology has in store for us, we turned to robotics expert Robert Loos, who is the founder of Robotics Today. Loos painted an exciting picture for us when asked what to expect from the next phase of drones.
He stated that “some of the commercial uses for drones, which are sometimes referred to as UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles), will be aerial surveillance, pipeline inspection, surveying/exploration, aerial photography, environmental monitoring, livestock monitoring and search and rescue.” Loos also predicts that drones, could eventually be put to work transporting cargo and equipment.
This process “could be useful during calamities or after disasters bringing firefighting equipment or first aid relief, food or water.” In other words, the same technology that the military uses in battle zones also has enormous potential as a humanitarian tool.
Speaking of the military, Loos believes that drones will become an increasingly common and popular tool for all service branches. He additionally predicts that the ever-increasing number of drones will feature smaller versions of this technology. Loos credits this strong surge in drone usage with “the development of the quadcopter UAVs.”
The robotics enthusiast elaborated that quadcopter UAVs have made “the possibilities become even greater since they don’t need a runway for take-off and landing and are able to hover in a fixed position, [thereby] making them ideal to be used in a rural environment.”
Loos also pointed out that countries beyond the U.S. and U.K. are beginning to embrace military drones. “According to a recent annual report of the Pentagon on Chinese military power, China is building an army of several thousand UAVs for military purposes.” This army is estimated at 40,000 drones.
With this increase in military and commercial drone usage, it is important to carefully consider the potential ethical issues that should help determine any applicable legal restrictions. When asked to provide any military ethical concerns, Loos said, “Artificial Intelligence can be a good thing if a certain degree of Artificial Intelligence is used to make the machines more efficient. Unfortunately there are plans to create UAVs with a high level of autonomy that are able to search for, select and destroy (human) targets without human interventions…These developments could cause a new worldwide arms race.”
Loos also has concerns about the proper commercial and personal usage of drones, including potential privacy and safety implications: “Unethical use could result in making pictures or videos of people in their home, invading the privacy of people. But what happens when an engine fails, catches fire or if the drone hits an obstacle in-flight? Does it crash into someone’s home or injure a person perhaps?”
In order to help avoid these issues, he would like to see safety criteria and licensing put in place for commercial purposes. When it comes to personal drones, Loos believes it would be best to handle drones like model airplanes. This means they would only be allowed to be used in a home environment and would need to meet a specific set of criteria. Additionally, anything going beyond these guidelines would be restricted to specific designated areas.
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