The millennial future is very different from how we thought it would go back in the 80s and 90s when everyone was dreaming of holograms and hover cars, but it’s by no means less advanced. There is a lot more wireless technology, and the combination of Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is bringing automated convenience to more common daily objects than we ever thought possible two decades ago. One of the unforeseen developments, though possibly our hover-car precursor, is the rotor drone. These amazing flying machines are not only becoming more advanced with every month, they are seeing an incredibly broad range of practical applications with many more ideas on the way. While 2017 has been a great year for drone developments, it’s looking like 2018 will see massive rollouts of commercially available service drones of every stripe. Here’s an interesting rundown of many custom drone applications already in action:
Security Drones with Cameras
While drones don’t yet have manipulator arms, they do have steady flight and an increasing amount of carrying capacity. Essentially a drone can transport anything you can affix to it. Cameras were one of the first things it occurred to people to attach to a drone and their usefulness is undeniable. Security drones are able to run constant patrols around government, industrial, commercial, and residential properties without getting tired, distracted, or ever straying from their programmed course. The cameras allow operators to have extra sets of eyes on the premises and respond to activity. Increasingly intelligent programming and motion sensors can allow security drones to detect unauthorized movement, report it to HQ, and possibly sound their own lights and alarm system to scare away intruders.
Security Drones with Nets
A new innovation in security drone technology, you can equip your drone with a net that acts as a harmless but effective capture method. Current applications display a net-drone’s ability to stalk and capture unauthorized ‘enemy’ drones in their patrol region by caching the other drone’s rotors in the netting. Once captured, your security drone can gently set down its victim, allowing you to inspect the flying invader. While there are not yet drones equipped with people-catching nets, police have already begun camera supported patrols and drone-assisted arrests are something we’re sure to see in the near future.
Food Delivery Drones
Drone delivery is looking to be more than just a trend in the food delivery service. Fast food restaurants that never did delivery before are starting to experiment with things like pizza, taco, and burrito orders, massively boosting their sales as people make orders on their smartphones just to see the drone flying in with their still steaming meals. Just as we were warned in 2016, it looks like Google is spearheading a group effort to bring more food deliveries by drone and they show no signs of slowing down soon.
Package Delivery Drones
Amazon is taking the novel idea of drone deliveries to a whole new level with their clearly stated intention to bring Amazon Prime Air into reality. This new idea to revolutionize e-commerce shopping appears to be more than just pie-in-the-sky dreaming and the retail giant has recently filed a patent for their innovative plan to house and deploy hundreds to thousands of drones. They clearly intend to implement these tower-like ‘bee hives’ in the near future, but currently the best answer the Prime Air FAQ has to offer is that they will “deploy when and where [they] have the regulatory support needed to safely realize [their] vision” so we’ll see where this goes in the next year.
Medical Supply Delivery Drones
Hospitals constantly need medical supplies restocked and sometimes ground shipments simply aren’t fast enough. While big, well-funded hospitals can occasionally make use of their emergency helicopters for things like special blood deliveries and transportation of rare medicines, drones can make on the spot deliveries inexpensive and available to even small clinics. One company in Rwanda has already started making blood and medicine deliveries to remote clinics, and many doctors are hopeful for an almost universal adoption of drone medical supply deliveries across the entire medical community.
EMT Assist Drones
With a simple ability to carry vital equipment quickly across traffic and into crowded areas, drones have an amazing potential as emergency medical assistants. In fact, EMTs are already using drones equipped with armoured defibrillator kits to help heart attack victims minutes after the attack instead of waiting for the ambulance to lace its way through traffic. The drone can fly up to 100 mph and reads out instructions to people on the scene, allowing EMTs to save more lives with much faster response times. Emergency medical professionals are quick adopters of anything that works well and prevents unnecessary deaths, so we’re likely to see a massive increase in number and variety of EMT assist drones in the near future.
Disaster Relief Drones
Some of the biggest problems in disaster relief are finding stranded or trapped victims and getting supplies into damaged areas. Drones can save the lives of victims and rescuers alike by flying through unstable areas that are unsafe to traverse with cameras, heat, and motion sensors looking for survivors in need. Then, once survivors are found, drones can deliver vital supplies across impeded roadways. Disaster relief drones have already been implemented in the Philipines, Haiti, and the Balkans after natural disasters, and also open up the door for private drone owners to pitch in on disaster recon and relief.
Personal Assistant Drones
With the increasing popularity of AI equipped drones and private drone ownership, we are very likely to see personal assistant drones in the near future. The AI secretary programs currently appearing in smartphone apps can easily be added to drone programming, allowing your drone to talk to you, answer questions, and fetch things for you like a helpful rotor-lifted personal secretary. Amazon, on about drones, as usual, has recently patented a design for tiny assistant drones that will provide aerial support for all your daily tasks like finding your keys, recording your morning karaoke, and reminding you to turn off the thermostat before leaving the house.
One funny but very real possibility involves mounting a babysitter AI on a security camera drone to achieve literal helicopter parenting. While the initial products are still in the prototyping phase, at least a few tech-savvy parents will be very excited about the ability to watch their kids when they’re home alone, outside playing or walking to and from school. With AI assistance, the drones could easily encourage your kids to do their homework, offer basic tutoring, make healthy snack suggestions, and contact your phone should anything go wrong.
Elderly Assistance Drones
In many cases, elderly people are capable of complete independence and prefer it that way. However, most family members of an ageing relative worry about falling scenarios or increasing forgetfulness. While no one wants to have the nursing home conversation, an elderly assistive drone can serve as a companion, household helper, and an automatic system for calling emergency services. An independent elderly person can rely on a drone’s AI to keep them company and remind them to lock their doors and take their pills while also acting as an extension of existing telecare services. This model is not yet in use, but enough people are thinking about it and inventing in that direction that we’re sure to see them soon.
There were a lot of sceptics in the early days as to the practical application of drones, but there have been too many success stories and innovations to stop them now. Over the past few years, drone designs have gotten stronger, smarter, and more independent. With the medical community at the forefront of innovative drone technology, other industries are quickly getting on board. In 2018, drones will only continue to get more advanced and be used in a greater variety of ways ranging from personal companions to international disaster relief.