In 1983 Motorola introduced the BynaTac 8000X. This was the first real cell phone. Prior to that there were briefcase phones, but the Motorola was the first cell phone as we know it. They were larger than bricks, weighed about the same and really had limited use. I remember seeing people with them and knowing they must be really important. With their limited capability, I think they were more of a status symbol than a real tool. Flash ahead 30 years and three-year olds are navigating the web on parent’s smart phone, We are watching movies and following our favorite sports teams in real-time from the middle of a lake. Personal phones have evolved faster than the auto, the airplane or the web itself.
But I’m not here to talk about cell phones. I’m here to talk about UAVs or Unmanned aerial vehicles, Drones. Are UAVs the next “cell phone”? I know you are thinking, “well, for the military maybe, but not me” The cell phone developed out of military technology also.
Lets look at some of the current and proposed applications for UAVs.
- Storm Chasing NOAA and NASA are currently using UAVs for Hurricane hunting and see many future applications
- 3-D Mapping A Swedish firm has developed sensors and software for 3-D mapping for small drones. Commercial applications are endless
- Wildlife protection Used to locate and track wildlife around the globe
- Agriculture Large farms are using UAVs to monitor soil temperature, moisture and crop infestations
- Ranching Large ranches can use UAVs to track and even heard their stock
- Search and Rescue UAVs are providing quick and inexpensive real-time information without risk to humans
- Law enforcement UAVs have many obvious applications for law enforcement. UAVs offer small towns the ability to utilize surveillance without the expense of helicopters. Small drones can operate for less than $4 per hour
- Real Estate Sales Realtors are using drones to provide video tours of large estates
- Sports Photographers Currently using UAVs to film cross-country skiing and other outdoor events
- Highway monitoring Drones can be used to monitor roadways and bridges
- Environmental Compliance A drone recently spotted a release from a slaughtering house into a stream that could have had significant health risks.
- Internet Service Providers are looking at solar drone, that can linger for 5 years to circle and provide internet access to remote regions
- Pipeline inspection Replacing costly aircraft and pilots
- News Drones could be utilized to provide real-time pictures replacing expensive helicopters
- Package Service Air cargo planes could be developed without pilots on board. One pilot could oversee the computer programmed, autonomous flights of several cargo aircraft from on location. This was mean less expensive aircraft and fewer pilots.
This is just scratching the surface of current uses and proposed uses of UAVs. If that’s isn’t enough to convince you, there is Amazon. Amazon has spent millions purchasing companies and equipment to develop individual UAVs that would fly from their centers and drop packages on our door steps. When Amazon announced their plans people discounted them. Really? Could anyone imagine an organization like Amazon ten years ago? Did anyone believe Bill Gates and Apple would place a computer on most desk tops. Regardless if Amazon reaches their goal, this business giant is investing millions into UAV development which promises to create many new and exciting uses.
So are UAVs the next cell phone? Will they be dropping your pizza at your door in 10 years? There is no way to know. Several laws and regulations will need to change. Technology will need to continue to develop. I wonder what people thought cell phones would be like today, back in 1983.
No if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if Pizza Hut will fly me a pizza over.