We are on the cusp of the personal robotics age. The most optimistic think that it will only be another 2-3 years until we all have personal robotic assistants, drone deliveries, and robotic entertainment for accessing information and interacting with the world around us. I think that we won’t begin seeing the beginnings of that paradigm shift until sometime in 2018, about 5 years from now.
For those that don’t believe domestic drones will ever be legal – laws passed in 2012 require the FAA to allow commercial drones in domestic airspace by 2015. Just a couple months ago, the FAA released a roadmap for drone legalization by 2015: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/media/UAS_Roadmap_2013.pdf. In it, they set the stage for legalizing drone use by law enforcement, businesses, universities, and hobbyists. Although they may not hit that exact deadline, it is likely that we are about to witness the emergence of a multi-billion dollar industry seemingly overnight.
Unfortunately, many people associate drones with military operations and the press has primarily cast them in a negative light. The word drone makes most people cringe as they think about the dangers of militarized drones and possible reductions in privacy. However, this way of thinking is akin to fearing computers in the 70s because of the possibility that they could be used by black hats to wreck havoc on society.
There are thousands of domestic applications for drones that will enhance our world. Drones will be used in agriculture for targeted weed management, watering, harvesting, and transportation resulting in less pesticide use, less water waste and fresher food. Restaurants and grocery stores will deliver food more quickly, Amazon will deliver packages within hours (though Amazon’s timeline is pretty optimistic), and logistical issues like traffic will be monitored real-time. Little league games will be videotaped as though professional, weddings will be filmed from previously impossible angles, extreme athletes will more easily capture epic moments, and journalists will take pictures and video of previously inaccessible areas.
Other benefits to humanity include search and rescue operations, fire and wildfire control, ecological monitoring, deep ocean surveillance (yes, these are technically drones despite not flying), medical first responders, medical supply transportation, transporting food and water to impoverished areas, and disaster relief.
Drones can also be used for entertainment. Imagine a stadium filled with spectators watching a game of drone quidditch (think Harry Potter), where the snitch is also a drone. The drones are controlled by humans where their right arms control movement and their left arms control a primary mechanism depending on whether the drone is defense, offense, etc.
The future is coming – can you hack it?