The military industrial complex aside, drones are slowly turning from monstrous post-Armageddon scourges, designed to hunt out any and all biological organism and reduce it to dust, into some of the more dependable allies in consumerism.
From late ‘80s to early ‘90s, cinema in films such as “Back to the Future Part II,” “RoboCop,” and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” movie-goers have witnessed drones as being the epitome of noncaring, soulless, killing machines, programmed at the whim of (usually) some shadowy government entity or really, really bad guys.
But it seems that mindset has started to shift. That innate fear of technology that has always hit society at one point or another (remember when people thought telephone lines carried evil spirits?) gets slowly consumed into the general populace that it’s almost a given the average person will interact with it sooner or later without the fear of possession.
Drones are now, essentially, available to everyone. But an average person won’t be spending over $12 million for the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper. They’ll settle for a big box-store variety. So, what can commercially-available drones do? Here are five innovative drone uses today.
Aerial Photography Although traditional methods of aerial photography were once traipsed by cranes, balloons and helicopters, drones now offer a more accessible way of photographing everything from crowd sizes at public events to real-estate tours. Land-locked shutterbugs can now get the shot of their dreams from heights heretofore reserved for those with a much bigger budget.
While the Federal Aviation Association is hesitant to approve standard commercial-based drone delivery, postal authorities in several countries including Australia, Germany and Singapore have started drone trials to see how efficient delivery might be, especially to more remote areas where traditional vehicles are inefficient.
Making Cinemagic The opening scene in the James Bond flick “Skyfall” used a drone in such spectacular fashion that the company behind the camera, Flying-Cam, won a Scientific & Engineering Oscar for its work. Other films that filmed pivotal angles include “Jurassic World,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and “The Expendables 3.”
Drones give filmmakers the ability to film at heights too low for helicopters yet too high for cranes.
Journalism Since the dawn of the written word, mankind has been reporting on battles waged. Drones now give a safety-net to journalists who report from the frontlines. They can be put to use in war zones where immediate footage doesn’t require putting their lives at risk.
Just Plain Fun The pod-racer battle in “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” has inspired a legitimate sport in the form of the Drone Racing League, a $700 million industry throughout the U.S. through which participants strap on virtual reality goggles and go propeller-to-propeller as they speed through obstacle courses created in city tunnels, malls and pro sports stadiums.
Regulations However, before any flying can happen within the country, each potential drone pilot must understand the FAA’s rules for flying at www.faa.gov/uas. The site features a comprehensive list regarding how, when and where to fly. Although no license is required to fly a drone recreationally, any individual using one in the service of a job must be 16 and older and obtain a certificate. The FAA also offers a mobile app called B4UFLY, available in the Apple Store for iOS and Google Play store for Android, that offers up-to-date information on no-fly zones, restrictions and other requirements based on location.