The Great Drone Immigration

The March 2013 issue of National Geographic contains an informative John Horgan article entitled the drones come home. As we begin to forge an era of Robot Smog, just how flying, civilian robots play into that possible future will be defined by legislation over the next two years, combined with innovation in flying machines at breakneck speeds. Several key facts and figures from this article: the FAA is working on regulations to open civilian space for drone activities by September 30, 2015. The US has 11,000 military drones, but we aren’t alone- fifty other countries already use drones, and thanks to the “drone-DIY” culture many of the countries are building their own. Drone manufacturers are already salivating at the prospect of vastly increasing their market size when civilians can purchase their wares, from inspection activities to journalism, agriculture, and don’t forget entertainment. One very interesting quote: “the Pentagon has asked for drones that ‘hide in plain sight,’ mimicking the behavior- and size- of bugs and birds.” Now remember that nearly all military technology eventually migrates over to civilian applications, and imagine a walk in the park when you’re wondering- is that a little green hummingbird? Or a robot? Is it watching me? Or that guy over there?  The article points out the enormous good that drones can do for search and rescue, for instance; but of course hand in hand with outstanding search  power comes the reinvention of privacy’s boundaries. Let the countdown begin to a whole ecology of applications: September 2015, we’re apparently on our way.

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