Initially developed for solely military purposes we have seen the drone industry evolve at an ever-increasing rate, moving from professional equipment to mainstream consumerism and even children’s toys.
An increasing number of industries have fed into this broadening drone market as they realise the potential drones have for positive contribution so that now considered commonplace in anything from construction, to journalism and even in agriculture. Yet, the dizzy rate of change shows no sign of slowing down as 2018 gets into its stride, here are some key developments to watch out for this year.
Key Developments in 2018:
Beyond Visual Line-of-Site (BVLOS)
Up until now, to comply with flying regulations an operator of a drone must be able to see their drone in order to legally fly it. However, in 2018 the Trump administration has announced that it will be testing drone flying beyond the line of site and thereby looks like it might be relaxing the regulations around this.
It looks like 2018 will see the innovation of MESH technology being applied to drones. This means that rather than a single drone being connected to a single operating device, multiple drones can connect to one operator (and each other) at the same time in order to share information.
Right now, drones are essentially flying cameras, but 2018 could see the introduction of computers into drones. This would mean that they could process data independently and effectively act without assistance from human operators – if they encounter an object for example.
What does this mean?
Combined these innovations (and relaxed regulations) could have a serious impact future of drone use and indeed humanity. In essence, 2018 could see the introduction of drones that can fly autonomously, process data independently and communicate with one another. Scary stuff.
Here are some areas this could affect:
Amazon has already announced its plan to launch the ‘Prime Air’ service that will deliver items under 5 lbs to your door by drone in under half an hour. They claim that “one day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road ” – though they cannot give us an exact date yet!
The food industry is right on their heels with Domino’s, Yo Sushi and Taco Bell all experimenting with drone delivery as faster and more cost efficient service (the latter’s test drone is brilliantly called the Tacocopter). Whilst an Icelandic food delivery platform, AHA, has partnered with Flytrex to make the first ever successful drone-delivered food service (though it is based over a relatively small area in Reykjavik).
Already drones are being used in response to humanitarian crises, the first examples being from as far back as Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and in Haiti in 2012. Last year, however, we really saw the extent of this take off (pardon the pun) as they were adopted on mass to help contain the damage wreaked by Hurricane Irma in the US.
The innovations described above will only make drones more useful in their capacity to deliver aid to places that humans either can’t reach or can’t react fast enough. BVLOS in particular here is revolutionary, as it increases by far the areas that the drones will be able to reach in a disaster zone.
The advanced processing will also be invaluable in the wake of a catastrophe when a drone’s 3D mapping ability can help immensely in the reconstruction of an area.
Finally, in terms of funding, the emergency aid sector is vital for the progression of drone technology. As emergency aid is currently spending large sums of money on less efficient alternatives (helicopters for example), it has both the budget and the incentive to invest in high powered, advanced drones. Correspondingly, it is here that I believe we will see the real industry advances this year, but like the initial military invention no doubt we will see these eek into other areas rapidly.
Flora Dallas is a content writer for Fat Lama the world’s fasted growing peer-to-peer rental platform, specialising in drone and camera hire. The platform aims to provide a more cost effective solution to buying items outright, giving users the potential to ‘try before they buy’ and lenders the chance to monetise their unused possessions fully insured.