What tasks can a drone perform?

When the word "drone" is mentioned, do you automatically think of spy operations and military strikes? While many people make this connection, it is only the tip of the technology iceberg when it comes to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Exciting new uses for UAVs (AKA drones) are on the horizon, and you will see them in lots of roles and performing many mundane tasks in the near future. Drones can be controlled remotely by a human or be totally autonomous, and they are being manufactured and sold in a wide range of sizes, shapes and configurations to suit many different tasks. The historical military and special ops uses have expanded to civilian applications: police and firefighters are using them, so are security companies for jobs like monitoring pipelines and crops, scientist use them for climate research, and so on.

Drone Phantom QuadropterDrone Phantom Quadropter

Chris Anderson believes so strongly in drones that he resigned his position as chief editor of Wired Magazine to lead 3D Robotics, a rapidly growing company that makes affordable drones for varied uses. The bet paid off, as the company has sold over $5 million worth of UAVs since its inception in 2009, in fact, they have sold more drones than the entire U.S. Military drone fleet. Anderson believes the newest technologies are game changers, similar to the breakthroughs when personal computers became mainstream, and later when the Internet popularity exploded. He also discussed how building his drones in the United States and Mexico allows his company to quickly get updated products to market and compete favorably with Chinese alternatives. We, at RobotShop, also believe in the innovation that is coming with UAVs, and thus we carry inexpensive hobbyist drones as well as professional drones.

Already today there are drones in use monitoring temperatures and the polar ice caps, and in use on farms to monitor crops virtually. UAVs give farmers lots of information about huge fields of crops, allowing them to only apply chemical pesticides when needed and lowering the amount of water used. New uses for drones are expected as the government works through the process of integrating drones into commercial air spaces. The US congress has tasked the FAA with completing this project by 2015. Legalizing commercial drone usage will clear the way for physical delivery of products, adding even more convenience to Internet shopping. Imagine shopping online for products that you need and having them sent to you by drone as quickly as having a pizza delivered. You won't need to drive to the store or deal with traffic or parking; simply order and wait for the drone. Current drone technology already includes pinpoint GPS that can get a package from door-to-door effortlessly.

Drone maps Peruvian ruinsDrone maps Peruvian ruins (by Yahoo News)

There is a long list of exciting possibilities for drones in the near future. Retailers will be eager to see what this new technology can do for their businesses. Already in the Florida Keys, drones are being set up to track shallow pools of water that breed mosquitoes so they can be eliminated. Archaeologists in Peru are using drones to map and protect ancient ruins. Surveillance applications can include livestock monitoring, home security, wildfire mapping, pipeline security, and automated road patrols. They can be used to help in oil, gas and mineral explorations, and scientific research that is too dangerous for people to undertake. Drones will be a boost for search and rescue missions and policing; facial recognition software can make these tasks quicker and more accurate. Military uses expect to include air to air combat and remote refueling, Conservationists welcome drones for tracking wildlife, storms and land assessments. Journalists will use drones to locate and report on remote sites. Farmers will use drones to monitor crops and for crop spraying. Infrastructure monitoring projects, like bridge and dam inspections can also be done remotely using this type of robot. When it comes to drones, sky's the limit! Pun intended.

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