Question marks remain over the safety of drones – the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) guidelines for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles are a work in progress – but their validity in terms of usage is no longer questioned.
In the UK, police forces are using drones for everything from crime-scene images to searching for missing persons, while engineers at the University of Catalonia, Barcelona, have developed a drone with thermal vision technology to allow park rangers in Africa to catch rhino poachers. And researchers at Harvard have developed drones to deliver medical supplies to remote locations in the developing world.
But while companies such as DHL concentrate their efforts on delivery drones, the future success of drones largely rests on the commercial sector.
In a report by technology consulting firm ABI Research, it was noted: “By 2019, the commercial small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) sector would have revenue of more than US$5.1 billion – five times the revenue of the consumer drone market and more than twice the revenues of the combined military and civil market currently dominating the industry.”
Not every suggested drone use is a success. In the US, the ‘Tacocopter’ has been officially grounded by the FAA, and Singapore-based Infinium Robotics have delayed the release of their ‘flying waiters’ as the drones have yet to prove they can carry enough to be useful.