We are on the verge of being invaded by a whole new breed of electronic helpers. Or, maybe drones are a bunch of hype with years until true disruption is seen. Truly, both sides of the conversation can be seen with regularity. Regardless, understanding disruptive technologies allows one to spot trends and understand the implications, and it cannot be argued that, at some point, industrial disruption on a large scale will be seen from the advancement of drone technology. Below is a quick crash-course in drone history and innovation. Enjoy!
Drones are beginning to fill our skies and run our errands…
“The reason why drones are such an unsettling force is that they deliver that magic combination of disruption and value.” -Werner Sievers, CEO of Cel-Fi
- UAV innovations started in the early 1900s and originally focused on providing practice targets for training military personnel.
- UAV development during World War I: the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company invented a pilotless aerial torpedo that would explode at a preset time.
- The earliest attempt at a powered UAV was A. M. Low’s “Aerial Target” in 1916.
- Nikola Tesla described a fleet of unmanned aerial combat vehicles in 1915.
- In 1959, the U.S. Air Force, concerned about losing pilots over hostile territory, began planning for the use of unmanned aircraft.
- The War of Attrition (1967–1970) featured the introduction of UAVs with reconnaissance cameras into combat in the Middle East.
- In the 1973 Yom Kippur War Israel used drones as decoys to spur opposing forces into wasting expensive anti-aircraft missiles.
- February 4, 2002, the CIA first used an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing.
- Cruise missiles were, in a sense, proto-drones, miniature versions of what the military had attempted as far back as 1917.
- t wasn’t until the late ’90s that the Air Force began working on the technical aspects of arming unmanned aircraft with missiles.
- Civilian drones now vastly outnumber military drones.
- The term unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was adopted by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and the United States Federal Aviation Administration in 2005 according to their Unmanned Aircraft System Roadmap 2005–2030.
- A UAV is defined as a “powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload.”
- According to Goldman and others, precision agriculture is the big commercial application for drones.
- The future for drones is as much about policymakers and regulators as it as about the technologists.
- When it comes to manufacturers of micro-drones, Chinese company DJI is today the undisputed and most wildly successful consumer market leader.
- The FAA projects that over the next decade the proliferation of drones will open up a $90B industry as uses expand to imagery, delivery, and much more.
- For film makers, drones have provided an opportunity to open a whole new universe of composition and cinematography.
- Telecom firms, including Facebook, are using drones to create airborne coverage networks.
- Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), “drones” to most of us, may be the ultimate in disruptive technology.
- The critical element of drones’ future as a disruptive technology is the continued development of sense-and-avoid technology.
- Drones assist in everything, from submarine drones counting sea lions in Alaska to airbourne drones conducting weather and environmental research to tracking herd movements on the Savannah in Africa.
- Companies like Matternet (founded at Singularity University) are building networks of UAVs to deliver food and medical supplies to remote villages around the world.
- Drones watch for disease and collect real-time data on crop health and yields. This is an estimated $3B annual market size.
- Energy companies monitor miles of pipeline and oil rigs with autonomous drones.
- Drones aid in search and rescue operations ranging from forest fire fighting to searching for people buried in rubble or snow using infrared sensors.
- Drones can be used during hostage situations, search and rescue operations, bomb threats, when officers need to pursue armed criminals, and to monitor drug trafficking across our borders.
- Future of Pollination: Imagine bee-sized drones pollinating flowers (in fact, we’re actually doing this now).
- Future of Personal security: In the future, your children will have a flotilla of micro-drones following them to school and to playgrounds at all times, scanning for danger.
- Future of Action sports photography: Imagine 100 micro-drone-cameras following a downhill skier capturing video from every angle in real time.
- Future of Asteroid prospecting and planetary science: sending small flotillas of four to six A300 drones (with onboard sensors) to remote locations like the asteroids or the moons of Mars.
- Future of Healthcare: Medical in-body drones: On the microscopic scale, each of us will have robotic drones traveling through our bodies monitoring and repairing.
- Future of Surveillance: Combined with facial recognition software and high-resolution cameras, drones will know where everybody and everything is at all times.
- IOT: Drones will be a key part of our trillion-sensor future, transporting a variety of sensors (thermal imaging, pressure, audio, radiation, chemical, biologics, and imaging) and will be connected to the Internet.
- As drones evolve and become more commonplace and commoditized, they will follow a predictable path to commercialization.
Thanks for reading!
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