Science fiction, no longer. Drones are among us and no more so than in the headlines but is it all just empty promises? Considering that the first drone to deliver products straight to the consumer set flight this time last year, we're getting eerily close to a life of drones, everywhere drones! So what exactly does this drone-filled future look like?
Internet for the massesSure, if you're reading this you probably don't really care about drone-use for internet consumption because you've already got internet but one of the most promising and useful applications of drones is already well underway. In mid 2015, Facebook revealed that it had completed a full-size version of its solar-powered Aquila drone which is now ready to be tested in the UK. The drone is designed to circle around the stratosphere, using lasers to provide internet service to even the most remote corners of the globe.
Delivery ServiceProbably the most exciting application of drones to date for most of us is as a delivery service. You've probably already heard of Amazon's Prime Air, drone delivery program which was granted permission to begin testing by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 2015. But what you might not know is that many other companies are following suit. Google is also currently developing a drone delivery service, named Project Wing, which is set to compete on a global scale with Amazon's Prime Air.
It's not just hypeUnless a whole hoard of big players are seriously wrong, drones are not just hype and it's not all just headlines. In an industry report by Drone Analyst, Commercial Drones: Current State of the US Industry, in just the first half of 2015 investments in drone technology totalled $172 million. That's more than the last 5 years combined. Most of that money came from venture capital investments, however there were notable amounts from tech companies including GE, Intel and Qualcomm. These technology companies are convinced that wirelessly connected drones will be part of the soon-to-be future.
While most of the headlines come out of the United States, according to the House of Lords EU Committee, Europe could become the centre for drone innovation by 2050. While the EU looks set to welcome a drone-filled future, they have made it clear that more consultation with the public is needed. It also touched on the use of drones as a delivery service stating that it did not believe such a service like those touted by Amazon and Google would be safe now but that it welcomes research and development into making drone deliveries possible one day.
While those in the business don't believe drone delivery will become a mass-consumer reality for at least another 5 years, it is clear that drones have a mass of potential outside of the mass-consumer. Besides, 5 years really isn't that long to wait.