Sunday evening was a night of drones. On Showtime's "Homeland," the CIA debated using drones to take out some of its own men to divert attention on the border of Iran. But in real life, just as the show was coming on the air, Amazon.com announced its bold plans to use similar flying vehicles to deliver packages. Called Amazon Air Prime, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company is planning to use drones to deliver packages within 30 minutes of placing an order.
Drones might currently be associated with military use, but that won't be the case for long. Sure, the FAA hasn't approved the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles yet and that likely won't happen until 2015 or after, but Amazon is just one of many companies and organizations beginning to think about using the pilotless-aircrafts in different ways. Welcome to the future.
|Drones for Food Delivery|
One day a drone will drop off your medium pie topped with pepperoni and olives. In June Domino's released a video of its "Domicopter," a drone that delivers pizza. In a video, the autonomous drone picks up the pizza box, soars over trees and houses and then drops it on a doorstep.
Right now the "Domicopter" is no more than a fun concept of delivering your pie, but it's not the only food-delivery drone idea. YO!Sushi in London has started to play around with the idea of using drones to deliver trays of sushi. Their implementation is a bit more low-tech; rather than use GPS, someone with an iPad or iPhone has to control or steer the drone. And if you're not in the mood for sushi or pizza, there was the Burrito Bomber, which drops burritos via parachute.
The big question: how much do you tip the food delivery drones?
|Drones for Traffic, Speeding Tickets|
But not all the drones you see in the future might be coming right to you. They might instead be watching you. Drones equipped with cameras might soon help monitor roads and gather traffic information. Fairfax County Police Chief David Roher has said that he envisions the flying devices gathering detailed aerial views.
"Just as a standpoint as an alternative for spotting traffic and sending information back to our VDOT Smart Traffic centers, and being able to observe backups," he said. Georgia Tech has also done research on traffic drones and how they will provide more precise traffic information than stationary traffic cameras.
But drones also might be used one day to catch you when there isn't traffic. Many states are already discussing the use of drones in monitoring speeding.
|Drones for Capturing Photos and Videos|
Aerial photography isn't new, but some teams and organizations are starting to play around with using smaller drones to capture more precise footage. The Golf Channel has been experimenting with using Hoverfly's Erista drone, which includes a mount for a DSLR camera, to capture at tournaments right on the green or in the fairway.
During Occupy Wall Street protesters used the Parrot AR drone to stream live video. A stunning video of Dallas shot using a DJI Phantom quadcopter also went viral in August.
|Drones for Humanitarian Aid|
Drones can also be used to deliver medicine and food to those who can't easily get it. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given grants to groups that are hoping to use drones to deliver vaccines to remote areas. Matternet, a start-up out of Singularity University, also aims to use a group of networked flying vehicles to deliver food, medicine and supplies to those who cannot easily get it. It has begun test flights in Haiti.
|Drones for Saving and Monitoring Animals|
Drones aren't only going to help people. They are being used at the Insitu Pacific to monitor whales off the coast of Australia and in Sumatra to track orangutans.
PETA has also said that it will be experimenting with a drone called the "Air Angel" to monitor hunters. The camera-equipped drone aims to capture footage of illegal activities. The organization launched the drone for a test flight in October, the first day of bowhunting season in Massachusetts.