Eight Ways We'll See Drones Used in the Year Ahead


Drones became incredibly popular throughout 2016, and beyond the corporate world as well. Consumers also began using them for a variety of tasks like photography, recreation and more. Drone use became so widespread that the FAA filed regulations related to consumer drones, a ruling known as Part 107.

A report from NPD revealed that drone sales have tripled over the past year to about $200 million. The trend will continue, so much so that 2017 could be dubbed the year of the drone.

Here are several exciting ways we’ll see drones used in the coming year.

1. Local Drone Delivery

Several companies including Amazon and DHL started planning and testing a drone delivery service. Last year, Google and Chipotle tested burrito delivery via drones on the campus of Virginia Tech. Imagine your pizza coming to your door attached to a drone.

Local retail stores could deliver products right to your door using drones. Even Wal-Mart has asked the FAA for permission to test drone delivery services.

And maybe we’ll someday see the U.S. Postal service delivering local mail with drones.

Companies will begin testing local delivery services — if they haven’t already — before rolling the option out to the public. There are many exciting applications for drones, but faster local delivery is certainly one of the most promising.

2. New Uses

Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles can be used for many things. They are making an impact in industries like construction, retail, agriculture, emergency response, surveys and road inspections and much more — but that’s only scratching the surface.

Law enforcement can use drones for surveillance or to monitor roadways, and first responders have already started testing drone use in the field. 

Don’t be surprised if several unorthodox uses appear.

3. Transportation

We most likely won’t see full-fledged vehicles flying around this year, but the technology is available. Uber is hashing out the first flying car, which will be more akin to a drone and attract stakeholders interested in the technology.

Nearly every auto manufacturer from Audi to GM is working on driverless vehicle technology. It’s not a stretch to think that the technology might soon be applied to larger-size drones, particularly ones that can be used to transport people.

Flying cars probably won’t hit the skies by the end of the year, but the technology continues to evolve and we’ll see several major advancements this year.

4. Civic Drone Duties

Fire departments, first responders, law enforcement and local administrators will soon rely on drones for civic duties. Imagine a fire-fighting drone that can be used to scour a building and douse a fire, taking the risk away from the men and women who would normally put their lives on the line.

Wildlife protection can benefit from drone use, as the government uses them to protect land and endangered species. Drones in the military are the reapers and predators used to conduct unmanned attacks overseas — and that’s the common image that comes to mind when most people think of drones.

5. Recreational Flights

Like remote-control airplanes and cars, a large group of consumers started using drones for recreation and entertainment. A Drone Racing League has cropped up, where contestants race against one another through specially designed courses.

As the technology becomes more advanced and cheaper to acquire, we will see more recreational use. They will likely become safer to fly as the tech grows, and it’s not unreasonable to assume they’ll become easier to find on stores shelves.

There are already many UAVs, drones and quadcopters aimed at younger audiences and hobbyists.

6. Mapping and Data Collection

Most people have heard of – and some of us have even seen – Google Maps’ vehicles. They drive around with huge cameras and sensors on their vehicles’ roofs, mapping out roadways for the Google Maps service. Taking this concept one step further, it’s likely that we’ll start to see drones used for such mapping in the coming year.

Currently, drones cannot be operated for non-recreational use without a Certificate of Authorization, so these options won’t available to just any company. However, large corporations like Google should have no problems acquiring the appropriate credentials.

In terms of other industries, geographic data could be collected by agricultural drones to monitor land and crops. Scientists could also use them to study and measure atmospheric conditions, including severe weather patterns. They could even be used to monitor traffic, providing status updates in real-time.

7. TV and Film Industry Tools

Most drones are equipped with still and video cameras — it’s why they’re great for aerial photography. Over the past year, the technology has advanced considerably.

Ambarella showed off a chipset — specifically for drones — at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year. The chipset can record 8K Ultra HD video at 30 frames per second. If you’re not familiar with frame rates and image quality, 30 frames per second is fantastic.

It’s not far-fetched to assume drones will be used in the TV and film industry, so cameramen can obtain better shots. In the past, expensive aerial rigs were used to capture high-flying and remote shots. With drones, they simply launch one into the air and start filming with little to no quality loss in terms of visuals.

8. Fishing and Underwater Activities

When you think of drones, you’re conditioned to think of aerial vehicles. After all, UAV stands for unmanned aerial vehicle. There’s another type of drone you may not be familiar with because it’s not yet mainstream.

At CES 2017, PowerRay unveiled its underwater, sonar-equipped drone. It’s designed to make fishing more fun and convenient. It uses sonar and LEDs to lure nearby fish, monitoring the underwater landscape and activity through a 4K capable camera. The bot can be submerged at a depth of up to 30 meters and can detect fish up to 40 meters away.

Pre-orders for the PowerRay drone will begin in February.

In 2017, drones will continue to become more common, smaller in size and practical for consumer and corporate use. As the technology continues to evolve, we will continue to see more drones in the air — and water. It’ll be exciting to watch the possibilities unfold this year, and beyond 2017. 

Edited by Alicia Young
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Contributing Writer

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