It goes without saying that the technological growth in the drone industry is having sweeping effects across all types of industries. From real estate to agriculture, drones are changing the way businesses operate. These new technologies present many new challenges, but just as many opportunities.
I remember my first quadcopter, back in 2014, a DJI Phantom 2 with a Go Pro mounted camera system. As a photographer and videographer that had always been tied down to the ground, this new ability to have zero limits to my camera placement was beyond fascinating. Before this point in time, if you wanted an aerial shot for a project you would have to hire a helicopter pilot! Now for less than $1,000, anyone could purchase a drone and have a camera in the air.
The rise of drones since 2014 has been exponential, as the hardware and software has improved. The Phantom 2, for example, had no built in camera. It did not have any ability to view what the camera was seeing. I would mount a Go Pro, hit record (either taking photos every second or recording video), send the drone up, and pray I can estimate the right angle for my shot.
By 2015, the DJI Phantom 3 was released. Built in camera. Built in live viewing. All connected to a controller with an iPad viewing screen. All of the sudden, the potential for drones in commercial work skyrocketed. To be clear, it’s not like this technology wasn’t available at this point in time, it simply was not “readily” available.
I would describe 2015 of the drone industry as the wild west of drones. Everyone and their mother was getting a drone from Christmas and the FAA had not been able to pin down strict regulations to monitor the increased air traffic. By 2017, the FAA established a drones pilot license for commercial use, as well as restrictions, registrations, and regulations for personal use.
It wasn’t perfect but it was going in the right direction. I personally found the restrictions a bit limiting and for those that wanted to follow the law, they were heavily restricted from doing projects they wanted to do. It would certainly be painful to see posts on social media from realtors in your area, posting drone shots that you knew were taken without the proper certifications.
The fact of the matter is, you cannot stop innovation. Drones are going to become heavily integrated into our society. I can certainly appreciate the paranoia for those that enjoy their privacy. You may own your land, but you do not own the air far above it. Spying comes with ease. That is where city and state regulations can come in and establish ordinances to prevent unwanted behavior.
The ultimate question becomes - Do the pros of drones outway the cons?
Pros of drones
- Faster Package Delivery - From Amazon to Domino’s Pizza, companies are integrating drones into business to expedite delivery of their products to their customers.
- Disaster Relief - With new sensor technologies like thermal imaging, emergency responders are able to assess damage and find victims quicker than ever before. Drones are proving invaluable to saving lives in a disaster or preventing the disaster from happening.
- News Reporting - Organizations like CNN are working to deliver improved quality footage of major events from a completely new perspective. CNN has been chosen by the FAA as one of three to lead the way for drones being used to gather news.
- Agricultural Benefits - Drones have many great applications for farming, including a quicker solution to survey crops and irrigation systems. Different accessories can allow drones to provide geographic mapping or see which areas of land are wet or dry.
Cons of drones
- Loss of Privacy - No one wants to be relaxing in their yard or at a public event and know someone could be watching them. Drones make this easier than ever before.
- Weaponizing of Drones - We cannot ignore the unfortunate reality that drones can be a dangerous tool in the wrong hands. From weaponized drone swarms to drones armed with flamethrowers, the potential hazards are clear.
- Disruption in Nature - While National Parks in the US may have banned the use of drone operations, some choose to blatantly ignore the law. I personally experienced this on a recent trip to Maroon Bells in Colorado. A quiet and scenic sunset ruined by someone flying a drone directly over the lake and approaching dangerously to a moose nearby.
- Law Enforcement Difficulties - It can be very difficult to regulate and administer consequences to drone pilots. Airports are even investing in drone radars that allow them to remotely take down a drone if they pose a flight risk. The FAA can establish no-fly drones, but that means nothing if they aren’t enforced.
You can’t put the worms back in the can at this point, one way or another we are living in a drone world. All we can do is best adapt Let us know what you think in the comments below!