Drones. You’ve probably heard of them, maybe even seen one in action, and by all accounts they are the next big thing.
So, what is a drone? A drone (aka unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) are machines that fly without a human pilot on board. They are usually controlled from the ground, or occasionally by a computer program. They have a multitude of uses ranging from photography, to scientific inquiry, to surveying, to military purposes. Basically, you can send a drone into a place where it is unwise, unsafe, or impossible for people to otherwise go. Some drones are elaborate and expensive; some are small enough to fit on your wrist.
The reasons behind drone development are as varied as their uses. There has been some interest among companies like Amazon in using drones to deliver packages. Photographers use drones to capture large-scale images from above, or to venture into territory too tricky for a good shot. Farmers are using drones to herd cattle (no, I’m not kidding!) and scientists are using drones to conduct tricky weather and environmental research. Drones can even be used to drop food and supplies to people in an emergency situation, and have been used as search and rescue devices.
Drones represent a pretty incredible use of technology—but what about the downsides? Many are concerned that the widespread use of drones will cause problems with commercial flights. People are concerned about drones being weaponized, providing the ability to commit long-distance crimes. There are privacy issues to consider, as well as safety issues. Lawmakers already debating how to regulate drones are faced with serious questions: what is a drone—is it any unmanned, remote-controlled flying machine? Where does that leave hobbyists who have been flying remote-controlled airplanes and helicopters for years? And more importantly, who will enforce these regulations, once they are in place?
I don’t want to drone on here, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that UAVs are here to stay . . .