Not so long ago the word drone was associated only with clandestine military operations and high-end filmmaking. However unmanned aerial vehicles have now become one of the fastest emerging sectors of the consumer tech industry.
Courtesy of an ever-improving range of fast-flying, highly functional quadcopters, a drone purchase has become a serious consideration for any self-respecting gadget fan. Great drones are finally entering the realms of affordability, while respectable entry-level models like the Parrott Mambo can be found for under £100.
The democratisation of drones is becoming even more interesting this year, said BTs managing director of external innovation, Jean-Marc Frangos, in an interview with BT.com.
The latest drones can travel miles from the operator, shoot super-smooth 4K Ultra HD video and use GPS to travel to a pre-determined landmarks and return safely to the owner thanks to guidance tech and longer battery lives. They can even take selfies of the operator and combine with VR headsets to give drone pilots a birds eye view.
In the latest installment of our series on emerging technology, we look at the current the tech thats turning us all into pilots.
Beyond the consumer realm, it may well be business that pushes drones fully into the mainstream. Most notably, Amazon hopes to deliver packages with its Air Prime drones and has already begun trialing the technology to a few customers in Cambridge. Eventually it wants to get deliveries to customers within 30 minutes and recently patented a beehive-like structure where the drones could return for restocking.
In New Zealand, Dominos is trialing pizza deliveries, and on a more serious note, Devon & Cornwall police now has a 24-hour drone unit at its disposal.
The interest from outside the consumer realm may help to loosen some of the legal limitations surrounding drones. In the UK the Civil Aviation Authority maintains that drones must always be kept in sight of their operators, undermining key features of drones like the Mavic Pro, which has a range of 4.3 miles. Drone operators must keep them below 400ft at all times and they must be 150ft (50m) away from people and property while flying.
Although these rules are designed to ensure safety, it does mean that schemes like Amazons may literally struggle to get off the ground.
Whether the ambitious commercial and public sector use cases for drones ever come to fruition remains to be seen, but one things for sure: well be seeing more and more unmanned aerial vehicles populating British skies in the years to come.
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