Tech trends for 2015: The civilian drone
No longer restricted to the realm of movie fantasy, receiving goods from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) may happen sooner than you think…
“The question is will government embrace drone technology and be willing to allow its commerciality?”
The hugely contentious use of military drones for missile attacks over the last decade might make it hard for some to see commercial use of remotely operated aircraft as a positive development.
But as with so many technological advancements developed to enhance the ability to win wars or protect national interests – radar, air traffic control, computers, nuclear physics, satellite, global positioning system (GPS), the internet, to name a few – the potential for use in civilian life has followed and will grow apace.
Identified as a tech trend to watch for 2014 by Startups.co.uk, the last 12 months have seen some key drone technology developments and it’s expected that 2015 will see delivery drones move into the mainstream. From delivering products, to important documents and even urgent medical supplies, the potential is unquestionable.
Tech heavyweights such as Google and Amazon have already started piloting delivery drones for their services, although developments on this are yet to be disclosed, and courier firms including DHL have not been far behind.
Early-stage start-ups have also been quick to pick up on the trend; on-demand services app BIZZBY trialled its self-developed drones in London last month which saw it deliver small items between addresses via its app.
The use of drones is not without its limitations though; it is currently illegal for commercial drones to be operated in built up areas and there are several Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations that businesses would need to overcome.
Yet these complications may not be around for long; Hailo co-founder Jay Bregman has announced plans for a new business venture which promises to help companies use drones without breaking the law, and BIZZBY CEO Rohan Sinclair Luvaglio recently launched a petition calling on government to draft a Drones Bill “to establish a firm position on civil drones”.
How it works:
Otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), drones are an aircraft without a human pilot aboard which can be operated autonomously through on-board computers or by remote control. While drones were previously restricted to military operations and civil work such as policing and firefighting, over the last year online retailers and delivery firms have been tailoring drones to suit their needs.
BIZZBY’s model demonstrates how a commercial drone works – via its mobile app a drone is requested to arrive at a pickup location, when it arrives an automated storage box is released to accept the delivery items. The drone then departs to the delivery dress with an on-board camera delivering real-time footage of its journey to the recipient within the app. On arrival, the item is then released from the storage box.
It’s also worth noting that drones aren’t just limited to delivery services and could be implemented for other uses such as taking stop-motion and time-motion images as well as selfies – which is known as the hyperlapse technique.
Anthony Sherick, managing director of technology jobs site Technojobs, weighed up the complexities surrounding drones:
“Drones is a fascinating area of technology – it conjures up images of the Star Wars or Back to the Future films. The question is will government embrace drone technology and be willing to allow its commerciality? And how will modern society allow this technology to be incorporated into everyday life.
“The main anti-drone campaigners are concerned about security issues. Drone technology is nothing new and we have seen frequent use by the military with un-nerving accuracy. Another key area of growth for UAV’s will be law enforcement. They are likely to be used for surveillance purposes extensively as well as tracking criminals, scanning traffic plates and eavesdropping. So there are clear benefits – especially in farming and for police forces. But whether private companies can utilise this is still to be determined by the regulatory minefield. The increasing commercial and civil applications of UAVs and the benefits they bring will mean the drones have a difficult but lucrative future.”